On April 12, Maine residents will have an opportunity to testify in favor of a new bill proposed by Sen. Joseph Baldacci.

The Amtrak Downeaster pulls into the Brunswick Visitors Center in 2022. Restoring passenger service from Brunswick to Waterville and Bangor will encourage young people to stay and grow the economy and attract young families who cannot afford housing in southern Maine. C. Thacher Carter/The Times Record, File

This bill, L.D. 860, would provide funding for a feasibility study to restore passenger rail service to Bangor and the other cities in central Maine.

Sen. Baldacci previously sponsored a similar bill, calling for a feasibility study of the passenger rails routes from Portland to Bangor. During the work session, the Maine Department of Transportation instead offered to help pay for a propensity study, concluding a feasibility study would cost too much. The $200,000 propensity study, funded by the Maine Department of Transportation and the three principal cities, Bangor, Waterville and Augusta, was a good first step.

However, it failed to provide sufficient information regarding potential ridership on either rail line. The propensity study used data to determine current ridership via car or bus to and from Portland. It did not consider the potential new ridership or the economic benefits to central Maine.

It also failed to address the issues of social and economic equity for older residents and other people in central Maine who do not have the ability or access to travel by car.

This limits their access to medical care as well as cultural events in other cities. The current commercial bus system leaves passengers off several miles out of the downtowns of most cities.


Restoration of passenger service from Brunswick to Waterville and Bangor will confer a wide array of economic benefits.

New jobs will be created from the construction, restoration and operation of the service. Enhanced transportation options will also encourage young people to stay and grow the economy and attract families who cannot afford housing in southern Maine. Passenger rail service with last-mile connections will enable state legislators and others who are seeking to testify on bills to attend legislative sessions without using their cars.

Thousands of students would have easy access to the nine colleges and universities in central Maine. Restoration of train service will also help reduce carbon emissions, alleviate congestion and reduce accidents on Routes 95 and 295. The new service will also bring more ridership to the Downeaster and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor service.

Maine hosted 15.4 million visitors last year who spent $8.6 billion.

With last-mile connections to museums and Acadia National Park, even more will come. The transportation links would also provide options for tour companies other than mega buses and cruise ships.

We have reached the point of no return. The current Maine Department of Transportation work plan includes funds to convert the state-owned rail lines, including the Lower Road corridor, into recreational bicycle and walking paths in 2023. Large sums have been allocated ($8 million in 2023 and $11 million in 2024), yet there is minimal money allocated to expand passenger train services.

Maine has an opportunity that other New England states have already recognized and acted upon. Two prime examples are the new service from Rutland to Burlington, Vermont, and the extension of service to Greenfield and Northampton, Massachusetts.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration has established a new corridor identification program, which is creating a pipeline of projects ready for funding over the next five years.

With our support, passage of L.D. 860 will enable the state to analyze the viability of restoring passenger rail service to Bangor and the other major cities in central Maine and to apply for federal funds to restore passenger service to that area of the state. Imagine! This would put 90% of the state’s population within an hour’s distance of a railroad station.

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