The operator of the Amtrak Downeaster on Thursday outlined three sites being considered for a new Portland station along the main rail line between Boston and Brunswick.

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority and VHB, an engineering consulting firm, identified one site between Congress Street and Park Avenue behind Amato’s/McDonald’s on St. John Street with access to Congress Street.

A second possibility is south of Congress Street near Union Station Plaza between the Cumberland County Jail and St. John Street.

And a third option unveiled during the virtual meeting Thursday is between the southern end of St. John Street and Northern Light Mercy Hospital.

Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, said officials are “very early in the process” and that a rough cost estimate would be in a “few tens of millions of dollars.”

“Without knowing exactly what we’re going to build, it’s hard to get there,” she said, referring to a more precise cost estimate.


Quinn previously has said a train station and platform could be completed within five years.

The rail authority says building a new Portland station will increase the passenger train’s efficiency and appeal to travelers.

A new station could ease traveler and parking congestion where the Downeaster stops at the Portland Transportation Center, which is owned by and shared with the Concord Coach Lines bus company.

The transportation center at Thompson’s Point takes the northbound Downeaster onto a branch of Pan Am Railways’ main line. To continue north, the train must back up to the main line, which takes 15 minutes, reducing the timeliness and efficiency of the passenger service.

Gordon Edington, project manager at VHB, said the “cumulative operational impacts” during the five daily round-trips require 20 additional train movements to enter and leave the Portland Transportation Center. Northbound and southbound delays add 2½ hours a day “just to make this reverse move.”

“That additional time makes the Downeaster travel less competitive with other modes of transportation,” such as cars or buses, he said.


The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority served 600,000 passengers in 2023, and 125,000 were affected by the reverse move, Edington said. It required 3,600 hours of crew overtime, trains used 8,600 gallons of fuel, and time spent by passengers cost nearly $1 million in additional costs last year, Edington said.

Moving the station to the main line would result in a two-minute station stop instead of the 15 minutes now required, he said.

The rail authority wants to locate the station at a site that reduces traffic and at-grade crossings. The Downeaster would have two platforms and a pedestrian bridge to accommodate northbound and southbound trains without interfering with each other, Edington said. In addition, a new station should allow for connection to potential rail service north and west of Portland.

Plans could provide for 105 parking spaces, Edington said. Officials also want to accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists and other transit users to drive ridership and demand.

A northbound Amtrak Downeaster train pulls up to the station at the Portland Transportation Center on April 18. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Planners detailed potential benefits or problems at the possible sites. For example, the location between Congress Street and Park Avenue is constrained and would limit the potential to develop nearby commercial and residential properties, known as Transit Oriented Development. But the site south of Congress Street near Union Station Plaza would allow for Transit Oriented Development, planners said.

Joey Brunelle, a past candidate for an at-large seat on the Portland City Council who said he plans to run again this year, urged planners to “do this in the right way, in a way that will set us up for success, not just in five years, but 10, 20 and 30.”


Portland is growing and may need double-tracking for rail transportation, he said: “The region’s population is not going to be shrinking any time soon. So we’re going to need the extra capacity eventually.”

The next steps are to continue to work with the public and others as planners identify a preferred alternative and seek federal funding for design and construction.

“We certainly hope that this is the last study,” Edington said.

“Our hope is that the next step here will be to move into site selection and eventual design and construction,” he added.

The rail authority was established in 1995 by the Maine Legislature to oversee the restoration and operation of passenger rail service from Boston to Maine. It manages day-to-day operations of the Downeaster, including budgets, contracts, marketing and customer service.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.