The unused rail corridor connecting Brunswick and Gardiner. Courtesy of Merrymeeting Trailblazers

For decades, a rail corridor connecting Brunswick and Gardiner has remained dormant, but residents are asking the Maine Department of Transportation to transform it into a recreation trail.

Last week, the 14 members of the Rail Corridor Use Advisory Council voted to send an official recommendation to the MaineDOT, urging them to turn the 34-mile abandoned corridor into a trail for bikers and hikers.

“Since the state has found passenger rail unfeasible on this corridor at least through 2040, the council concluded that an interim trail makes the most sense,” said council member Jeremy Cluchey.

Cluchey is also the chairperson of the Merrymeeting Trail Board of Supervisors, founded in 2008 by the towns of Bowdoinham, Topsham, Gardiner and Richmond. Spending the past 15 years forming a game plan, Cluchey said the trail is the most cost-effective choice for the state now that railway standards have changed and offering passenger rail on the line would require expensive upgrades.

According to MaineDOT estimates, a new passenger rail service would cost $363 million and another $3 million each year for maintenance, while an interim trail would cost $34.3 million to build and around $140,000 a year to maintain.

Cluchey said if the Merrymeeting Trail is approved, then the existing tracks would be removed and used on another railway in Aroostook County. He acknowledged the land is and always will be a rail corridor and that the state may choose to restore it for future train use.


“In 20, 30, 40 years from now, if the population shifts and restoring rail services is the highest public benefit, then that’s what will happen,” Cluchey said.


At a June council meeting, dozens of residents shared their thoughts on the unused corridor. Over 70% of residents supported the trail and praised its potential community health benefits.

Mid Coast–Parkview Health President Dr. Christopher T. Bowe said investing in the trail would promote healthy living.

“Having a local resource like the interim trail under consideration would allow our primary care doctors, cardiologists, behavioral health clinicians and other providers to encourage patients to walk and exercise in a safe, beautiful and natural setting,” Bowe said. “It could also help us start to bend the curve on rising health care costs, as over 11% of U.S. health care expenditures are associated with inadequate physical activity.”

A few residents said restoring the commuter rail would benefit the community more than a hiking trail would.

“I strongly believe that upgrading and adding passenger rail in Maine is the way to go. I live in Augusta and hate how much I am required to drive as well as many aging people who struggle to get around due to limited public transportation,” Teddy Faugno said.

The council gave its recommendation to the MaineDOT on Aug. 23 and is awaiting the commissioner’s response.

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