Libby introduces bill to improve, expand Maine's railroads
AUGUSTA — Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, introduced a bill Thursday that would push the Maine Department of Transportation to more aggressively pursue the expansion and improvement of passenger rail service in Maine.
The bill — LD 315 “Resolve, Directing the Department of Transportation To Apply for Funds for Rail Improvements” — was the subject of a public hearing in the Legislature’s Transportation Committee on Thursday. It would direct MDOT to pursue a number of federal passenger rail grants and to report back to the Committee at the end of the year with the details of those applications, the amount of state matching funding to obtain those grants, and recommendations for how Maine can be more competitive when applying for federal passenger rail grants.
“There are existing funds available at the federal level to significantly improve the quality and efficiency of Maine’s rail network, and to expand the Downeaster service area to Lewiston, Maine’s second largest metropolitan area, and beyond,” said Libby.
Tony Donovan, the Chair of the Maine chapter of the Sierra Club, spoke in favor of the bill.
“Transportation investments create jobs, opportunity and economic benefits,” said Donovan. “Railroads provide all of that, while helping to clean the environment.”
LD 315 is one of many expected rail and infrastructure bills before the Maine Legislature this year. At the federal level, both President Donald Trump and Congressional Democrats have unveiled trillion-dollar infrastructure plans in recent weeks. The bill faces further action in the Transportation Committee, and votes in the House and Senate.