BUSINESS, ENVIRO, LOCAL LEADERS SUPPORT RAIL LINE TO L/A
AUGUSTA -A proposed bond measure to expand passenger rail service to the Lewiston-Auburn area received broad support among local lawmakers, business leaders, and environmentalists at a public hearing today in the state’s budget writing committee.
“We all recognize that a robust transportation infrastructure is critical to a thriving business climate,” said Democratic State Senator Nate Libby of Lewiston, the sponsor of the bond measure. “Having observed the success of the Amtrak DownEaster service, which has generated over $100 million in economic development projects along the coastal rail corridor, and served thousands of Maine workers and out-of-state vacationers, we believe this success must be replicated in the Western Maine region.”
LD 438 “An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Invest in Maine’s Rail Infrastructure and Expand Passenger Rail Service,” would authorize the state to borrow up to $25 million, upon passage at referendum, for rail line improvements across Maine. The breakdown of these funds includes: $12 million for repair and reconstruction of state-owned rail lines; $8 million for improvements at the railway crossing at Royal Junction in Yarmouth; $5 million for improvements on the railroad line between Auburn, Lewiston, and Portland.
Currently, the state-owns 11-miles of rail from the Saint Lawrence & Atlantic line that runs from Royal Junction in Yarmouth to Danville Junction in Auburn. Danville Junction–where the Amtrak DownEaster currently passes through–to downtown Lewiston along the PanAm line is another six miles.
“The second largest metropolitan area of the state is a mere 17 miles from being connected to the very successful Amtrak system serving the largest metropolitan area in the state,” added Sen. Libby. “This bond can assist our region of the state continue to build on our strengths and achieve some progress in our long-standing regional priority of improving public transportation infrastructure.”
Lewiston Mayor Bob McDonald, Robin Zinchuk from Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce, Tony Donovan from the Maine Rail Transit Coalition, the Sierra Club, and GrowSmart Maine all support the measure.
“During my time on the Legislature’s budget-writing committee, I have advocated for the funding to bring passenger rail service to our area. We know it would make a big difference for economic development in Lewiston-Auburn. The progress has been incremental, and it’s really time now to get the job done,” said Rep. Peggy Rotundo (D-Lewiston), a longtime member of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee who is now House chair. “LD 438 is a bold and necessary step forward for passenger rail for our community and Maine as a whole.”
The state’s budget writing committee will be holding a work session on the bill in the coming days.