>Comments Submitted Page 1
Comments Submitted to the Rail Plan Web site Page 1
The following is a list of comments that have been received about the Rail Plan.
- Comment: I am sorry that I missed the meeting in Auburn last week. I want to add my support for passenger rail service in LA. I realize that there is more tourist traffic along the coast in the summer, but LA is a hub for the western mountains and for people traveling to Augusta and Bangor.
As the second largest population center in Maine, we have a lot of people who travel the state and a lot of people who travel to the area for business and pleasure.
LA has 11 festivals that draw about 250,000 visitors! We have about 20 arts and cultural organizations offering over 400 performances/events per year. Four of our locally owned restaurants estimate that 50% of their business is from out of town visitors with about 20% coming from out of state. LA is becoming a destination in Maine. The Franco American Heritage Center draws world renown performers; Bates College Summer Dance Festival has expanded to year round performances attracting audiences from Boston and beyond; Public Theater is one of the few year round equity theater groups in Maine.
Personally, I have used the bus to get to Boston for almost 20 years. Both of my children live down there and I have no desire to drive and try to find a parking place. Neither of them own cars. They are young professionals who travel a great deal, using public transport-something that is in dire need in this country. Passenger train service from LA to Boston would be a blessing for us. No more driving to Portland for the bus. But more important, passenger rail service through our community will entice even more people to enjoy the cultural and natural benefits of LA. It's a win-win deal.
- Comment: In regards to potential commuter rail service, a top priority should be affordability. The Downeaster is not affordable in my eyes -- not for many Mainers. I would pay no more than $10 to ride the train one-way from Auburn to Portland.
Beyond that, in order for commuter service to be complete, we must address other modes of public transportation (i.e. buses). When someone arrives at either station, how will they get to their final destination? CityLink in L/A and other like bus systems must coordinate with and service the train stations frequently.
- Comment: I think it would be great to have rail going to Auburn, sounds like a good plan.
- Comment: Hello. Rail service to the Lewiston Auburn area would be a positive step for our local economy and paves the way for a more environmentally friendly and diversified transportation system. Please support Rail to LA.
- Comment: The face of Maine was created by the coast, rivers, and the paper industry. There seems to be very good representation of the coast and rivers, but Western Maine has been abandonded with the downturn of the paper industry. The paper industry created the rail structure and should be the eventual avenue to give back that history and structure.
Heading to Western Maine starts begins by at least directing the rail plan inland. Lewiston/Auburn is the logical bridge to bring growth back to the mill towns that have supported the State in the past. Expanding coastal rail benefits the people coming and going out of Maine, but doesn't bring added structure to the people of Maine.
- Comment: Are they going to rebuild the track from madison, me to
anson,me in the near future?
Response from MaineDOT: That rail right-of-way is still in private ownership with Pan Am Railways. We have heard some talk that they would like to rebuild it to access a quarry they own in Embden, however I have heard no near term plans to accomplish this.
- Comment: My family and I have vacationed in cape cod for years, always taking complete enjoyment in their rail trails and always wishing that there were better rail trails around here.
- Comment: Bring rail to the Lewiston-Auburn area! Why would you not want to invest in the largest dry port in the state? Tourism can be based on fads- both seasonally and over time (just look at all the old resorts we USED to have just 70 years ago), but industry if developed right will last much longer. In addition, if you opened the opportunity for passenger rail, you could link Maine's two largest cities! Please, think with your heads, and not those of the midcoast lobbyists!
- Comment: I would like to encourage DOT to look at rail lines to go through Lewiston /Auburn. They currently run near the airport and LA's location provides easy access to the western mountains.
If rail service is going to be implemented in Maine on a larger scale, it needs to be cost effective for the consumer to use it as a commuter rail, as well as one for tourists. Currently the train to Boston is not at a cost that allows it to be a cost effective option for commuters.
- Comment: I am happy a meeting in Lewiston was planned and done, but I still am unsure if the committee will seriously consider Auburn as a valid option. Auburn already has a port and rails from Auburn lead to Western Maine, where wood & pulp comes from. It would be in the rails best interest to invest in getting to Auburn rather than Brunswick and/or Augusta.
As a concerned citizen, a young professional and a Mainer my hope is that Maine DOT considers what Auburn, Lewiston and Western Maine has to offer the rail.
Jennifer M. Gendron
Response: Thanks for your comment. Just to clarify, the purpose of this set of public meetings was to listen, not to provide answers. We have heard from people in Lewiston/Auburn, Bangor, Portland and Presque Isle, as well as via email in other parts of the state. From each region we heard a different set of needs based on the local economy and local perceptions. After hearing all this, the job now is to provide the State with what they need to develop a fair and forward-looking set of policies that will allow them to prioritize rail investment over the next ten years. We will come back to you for feedback, hopefully by the end of the year, with our thinking in this direction.
- Comment: We are students from Jay Middle School who are on the Lego League Team and we are studying transportation issues because this years Lego League Theme is “Smart Move.” We are studying shipping and receiving at Verso Paper. They get raw materials in and ship paper out using railroad boxcars. Our research shows that trains are more efficient than trucks and we should support railroads because they are needed.
We think that Maine’s number of railroads should increase because it is more fuel efficient. You can get more supplies out and in.
A freight car hauls 4 tractor trailer loads of materials. The country should have a train that goes from Lewiston to California which would be safer because there would be fewer plane crashes and it will use less fuel. The train could stop at certain stops for people to get to their jobs.
Dustin Jones, Kyle Holman, Adam Gettle, Hayley Donka, Jonathan Ladd, Anthony Collora
Response: Thanks very much for your comments, as well as your initiative in studying transportation issues. It is certainly true that trains are more efficient than trucks, especially for large, heavy items. However, in order for a railroad to be profitable, there must be enough items to ship to pay for track upkeep, workers' salaries and other overhead. Maine mills such as Verso have been producing less paper in recent years. This is in part because demand is down - many people use the Internet now for news and communication such as this email. This presents a challenge, as it is hard for the railroad to make ends meet - paper represents fully 60% of what is shipped in Maine via rail. These are the kinds of challenges that the Maine State Rail Plan will try to address.
- Comment: While it is unlikely that Downeaster passenger rail can be extended to all parts of the state, such service should be prioritized for population/employment/service center communities such as Lewiston-Auburn, Augusta and Bangor. There should also be serious research/investigation of light rail restoration (i.e., restoration of single car/small-scale inter-urban service to places such as Pineland, Gorham and other outlying population centers, with significant attention to connectivity between transportation modes.
It is impossible for MDOT to serve everybody locally with passenger rail, but it is imperative that MDOT prioritize getting the most "bang for the buck."
Great attention also needs to be paid to infrastructure, and if railroads have been neglecting their responsibilities for capital maintenance, there needs to be aggressive legislative action to require improvements. If public money is required, significant concessions must be extracted from the railroads which were given such a huge public benefit in the rights-of-ways granted so long ago.
- Comment: Good Afternoon Maine DOT, my name is Linda Walbridge. I work for Community Concepts, Inc. and I am the Director for the Western Maine Economic Development Council. Our Department works on creating economic opportunity throughout Oxford County. In all the various plans and reports on rail that I have read or heard about one thing continues to stand out. Oxford County does not seem to benefit directly from any plan under discussion. We have three lines that come through Oxford County.
The closed Mountain Division line, Pan Am that travels to the New Page Mill in Rumford and the Saint Lawrence and Atlantic Rail line that heads north through Bethel and beyond. None of these rail lines serves Oxford County in a large way. We would like to see a plan that has a component that helps Oxford businewsses hook to existing lines. Infrastructure development is desperately needed in western Maine and creative ways to access rail is an important factor in future economic growth of our County. Our ability to attract new business depends on access to rail. In our case, support for the Auburn Intermodel Facility and the Saint Lawrence and Atlantic line is our best current hope to one day being able to attract new business that depends on rail. Yet, I see no major investment to grow that line at this time. Further, unless there is some idea of how to help Oxford participate in future rail growth that directly impacts us we are on the loosing end of rail moving us forward. Any ideas on how we, meaning western Maine, can directly access the various rail lines that we all are helping to finance in one way or the other?
- Comment: A year ago Maine faced the prospect of thousands of homes being without heat during a winter of extremely high heating oil prices. We were spared the crisis when oil prices plummeted just before winter hit. But we could be hit with the crisis again - this time for real.
Keeping Maine people warm with this oil price threat hanging over our heads may require a rapid, statewide mobilization of our only major, currently available source of home heating fuel -- Maine-produced wood in the form of chips, pellets and cordwood.
Transportation of these fuels - whether in a crisis situation or in a more reasonable transition to indigenous heating fuel - should be done to a large degree by bulk freight rail. Thus the Maine State Rail Plan should consider the rail-related recommendations made by the Governor's Wood to Energy Task Force report prepared just a year ago, when the home heating crunch looked inevitable. These recommendations are listed below. These recommendations were developed by wood-to-energy people, not rail or transportation people. Therefore, they do not reflect detailed knowledge of rail issues. They are, however, the perspective of people tasked by the Governor to figure out how to keep Maine people warm for survival. In that sense they reflect the perspective of potential major and very important industry/commercial customers of Maine rail services. Please bear these recommendations in mind as part of the reasoning of why we need to consider major changes in Maine's rail system -- to get people where they need to go, to enable a viable economy, and to put our forest resources to work, for paper, lumber and home heat. Here are the recommendations directly from the Governor's Wood to Energy Task Force Final Report, September, 2008
- Maine’s rail system is a significant recipient of public funds invested in the system by the State. The State should work to make the rail systems better integrated to facilitate the movement of bulk materials both inter and intrastate.
- The State should engage the railroad companies in order to understand the reasons for discontinuities in the system.
- The State should investigate a strategy for providing incentives for new facilities in the wood products sector to be located for easy access to the rail system.
- The proposed general transportation strategies in the Governor’s Pre-Emergency Task Force report are reiterated below to underscore the Wood-to-Energy Task Force’s support of those action items.
- Provide relief to businesses that wish to connect to the railway system.
- Provide a revolving loan fund to promote business connections to local rail systems.
- Provide a truck efficiency tax incentives program to enhance energy efficiency for motor carriers.
- Expand the DOT Industrial Rail Access Program.
- Promote intermodal – freight/rail interconnections.
- Expand railroads into industrial parks.
- Expand the use of anti-idling technologies and programs.
- Promote Maine inter-modal ports such as Searsport, Bangor and Portland.
- Promote a robust rail and intermodal transportation system in the State.
- Expand container traffic at IMT-Portland.
- Comment: We are faced with a serious dilemma regarding the future of transportation in this country and a decision needs to be made immediately in Maine. Over the past 20 plus years, the State of Maine has invested a substantial amount of taxpayer money into the acquisition and restoration of state railway corridors. The opportunity presented by this investment for moving goods and people in an economical and environmentally friendly manner is significant.
However, while Maine Transportation officials plan on the one hand to consider investments in making rail an effective transportation method, on the other hand (often another department) the state is spending more tax dollars on conversion of these same rail corridors into recreational trails.
There is no data available on the impact of these decisions, and in fact there were no true analytical reports on the economic or environmental impacts of trails vs. rails done prior to construction of these trails.
Over the past 18 months our coalition, the Maine Rail Transit Coalition has been active in educating people, institutions and towns on the potential for use of railway transportation corridors, for rail, in Maine and throughout the northeast. We have a vision for rail transportation that, based on existing corridors, can save money for households, municipalities and the state, while at the same time bringing substantial economic activity to the state, while reducing the impacts of transportation on the environment.
Based on knowledge of passenger railway services in other parts of the country and the historical use of rail corridors, it is our belief that certain Maine RR Corridors, inclduing routes serving portland, Lewsiton and Augusta, are capable of operating a double-track commuter passenger system. Operation of DMU-type rail cars have the capability of moving more than 100 passengers at a time, at speeds of over 100 MPH, although realistically we recognize that 60 mph is adequate. We believe this service can reduce the congestion on Maine roads and contribute significant benefits to reductions in carbon emissions.
Although there is little data to support this investment in alternative transportation in Maine. Too often State DOT’s reject this concept out of hand due to demographic standards for railway investments used by the FTA. And, in our automobile-centric society the concept of rail service to replace autos is hard to grasp. Yet, no data has been used to determine if the current conversion of railway corridors to recreational trail use is in the best interest of the public taxpayers either!
We would suggest otherwise and we are calling for a full determination by the State of Maine into how these decisions to pave trails alongside and across railway corrdiors are being made. We are requesting a determination of what the economic and environmental impacts are on the uses, and if in fact state law allows these railway transportation corridors to be changed to trails. We need data collection, economic impact satements, CBA's and analysis on all aspects of the uses of these corridors. And, we are asking that the state policy for expenditures on the acquisition of railway corridors clearly define the intended uses of these corridors.
What is the Law?
The State Railway Preservation Act does not reference conversion of the rail corridors to any use other than rail, other than to state that “
the MDOT reserves the right to terminate at any time the use of the Calais Branch rail corridor for recreational purposes and to use the Calais branch rail corridor for railroad purposes”.
At the Federal level, the law allowing the use of railway corridors for trail use specifically references that the use of trails are a mechanism for preserving railroad rights-of-way for future rail service. The law allows inactive railroad corridors to be used by qualified trail managers on an interim basis “until such time as these rights-of-way are needed for future rail service”. Railway corridors serving Augusta, Bath and Bangor to name a few have already been converted to paved recreational routes. Plans for the Auburn corridor are in the works. Portland is currently building a six million dollar paved trail on the only surviving railway corridor that served the center of the city.
At the same time the state is engaged in this rail plan, the Governor has submitted a new transportation plan for ports and rail, one of the largest rail way companies is going out of business and the state has submitted grant applications to the federal government for over $150 million in railway improvements. What is the law and what is the policy? What is best for the most number of people and what is the best use of tax dollars for transportation? We are faced with a serious dilemma regarding the future of transportation in this country and a decision needs to be made immediately in Maine.
Maine Rail Transit Coalition
Response: Thanks for your comments and interest in the State Rail Plan. Railway corridors purchased by the State through MaineDOT for
rail preservation are managed for future rail use and any trail use is
secondary to that objective. I forwarded you a copy of our
trail with rail policy the other day and that should clarify how
MaineDOT currently proceeds with construction or trail with rail in our
corridors. In the one case where the rail has been removed and an
interim trail has been placed in the RR corridor (Washington Jct. to
Ayers Jct.) as you correctly noted, the statute states that the trail is
an interim use while preserving the corridor for future rail use and
that MaineDOT reserves the right to terminate the trail at any time to
return the corridor to rail use. This clearly lays out the priorities
for that corridor. There are currently 318 miles of rail corridors in
the State that are owned and managed by MaineDOT for future rail use.
There are properties/corridors that have been purchased by the
State usually by MaineDOC or Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for other
use, generally recreation. These are not purchased with Rail
Preservation funds or MaineDOT funds. Obviously these are managed
differently than the MaineDOT corridors because they were purchased for
different purposes using different funding sources. Again, thank you for your interest.
- Comment: Lewiston-Auburn is the geographic hub of Maine. More people live within 50 miles of L-A than anywhere else in Maine.
Rail service to this area should be your high priority.
- Comment: Please accept the following comments on rail service in Maine.
I am deeply disturbed by the lack of initiative and vision in the current plan. I have used our existing rail service for trips to Boston regularly since service began, I believe it is more economic and environmentally friendly than passenger car travel and I believe freight rail service is that much more so. My concerns for Lewiston Auburn are that in addition to having the 2nd largest population center, Lewiston-Auburn is home to the state's largest port and only free-trade zone. It is my understanding Maine requested over $200 million for 5 rail projects, none of which substantially benefit LA or Western Maine.
I believe it is critical to the economy and quality of life for LA and Maine to have significant rail service. I believe the history of rail and light rail in Maine is substantial, we know how to move freight and people, we must expand our rail options not 20 years from now, not 10 years from now, not 5 years from now but now.
Thank you for your consideration of my comments.
John L. Painter
765 College St.
Lewiston, ME 04240
- Comment: "I personally feel that when the Downeaster gets to Brunswick, hopefully next year, one question will be asked "why did we stop there" meaning go on to different parts of the State. Maine Eastern has said to me that if Amtrak commits to two trains a day to Brunswick, that they will run a train to Augusta. I guess the Augusta parking District should learn that burying rails to make parking spaces is just not a bad idea but a waste of time and money. Have a nice day, Mr. Cole"
Bernard B Cole II
- Comment: "Except for a few commercial freight lines, which may eventually prove not profitable, the rail system is a drain on the tax payer"
- Comment: "please put in the passenger rail service to take more cars off the road let us love our planet
- Comment: "I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the meeting in PI on October 6th and found it very interesting. The comments that hit home the most seemed to be the ones that referred to the Federal and State investments in highway transportation infrastructure but the minimized investment in rail infrastructure. The Federal highway system receives billions of $ annually which is very much needed and still under funded. It seems in order to have any chance of success there needs to be more governmental funds injected into rail in order to provide adequate competitive transportation throughout the region.
The second noted comment that no one seemed to want to address was that even if the State is able to acquire the 241 miles of rail that will be decommissioned, that will not solve the issues in the lower end of the State with competing rail lines controlling shipment schedules. The State may need to consider purchase of ALL rail that is in place today and allow the private investment to own the equipment rolling over it. This is government assisting economic development and addressing public needs, tax dollars well spent for everyone.
The tasks assigned to MDOT are not easily undertaken but the return on investment could be very lucrative to everyone if planning and design is done to accommodate the future. The Port of Halifax could better serve the Boston and New York markets traveling directly through Maine as opposed to being diverted to Montreal then into the U.S. through up State New York. The Canadian Pacific Rail and CN Rail system have existing ROW into the U.S. which could be acquired and utilized to connect the two markets (Halifax and Boston) and open public transportation opportunities all along the eastern seaboard. The Halifax population base of 2006 census data shows numbers above 372,000 which is a strong number to show potential for travel to the State and New England. Also to be considered are the unknown amount of freight containers that could potentially be available for the "State Owned" private hauling opportunity.
Again as I stated in the past this needs to be considered with both eyes wide open or it's going to go away and never come back.
I still have the opinion that there is more opportunity with in the State for tourism to utilize the rail system. At present it is MM&A's responsibility to look for those new markets but State control would open those markets and allow for more opportunity.
Thanks for looking at our issues but my gut feeling is it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better. There needs to be more meetings like this to resolve what is ahead and ensure we do not loose this critical cornerstone to the State. As was heard last night the loss of the 241 miles will ultimately have impacts across the Nation and World.
If we can provide any further assistance or accommodate any future discussions please do not hesitate to ask. Our local economy needs this lifeline as does the State."
- Comment: "As mentioned to Denis Berube of NMDC, there is 20+ years of history associated with the inability of business to use rail from aroostook county. It seems that it is more like the chicken and the egg now that many rail users have left the county or are shut down and the fact that we can not quote a firm price or guaranty deliver in this current climate. I am a firm believer that deregulation of this industry was the beginning of the disaster that we are about to look at putting up big bucks to maintain it. With deregulation each track owner has certain rights that seem to have and are being taken advantage of. Part of the pricing that rail providers are not able to quote to respective businesses in the last 20 years is the cost that will be assessed to them when traveling over another company owned tracks. In addition the ability of track owners to hold up and inspect cars etc. going over their tracks make it impossible to determine a firm delivery date. The really is serious for business in aroostook county because a lot of rail could be involved with perishable product. this is the two main reasons that potential large users of rail have indicated to me that they must look elsewhere. Some have even told me in recent years that the rail company would be glad to consider providing the service (without guaranteeing the price or deliver date) but only if the company can supply its own cars and in many cases guaranty a minimum number of cars per week. With the small businesses we have and the seasonal nature of many businesses in Aroostook County this is very hard to do.
I think that the state has to look deep into all aspects of the rail system as we know it today before investing any money at all. What good would it do to purchase and repair the system if no one is willing to use it to its capacity based on the points mentioned above. I do not think we can ask a business for guaranteed sales in order to support the operation of rail until we can guaranty an affordable and competitive price and a guaranteed delivery time. This is a case where business will not come if we build it and we can not have business expansion in Aroostook until we have an affordable and reliable rail system."
Duane P. Walton
- Comment: "I live in Westbrook and cannot make it to tonight's meeting in at USM in Portland, but wanted to express my support in pursuing much higher speed rail service in Maine. Especially, between Portland and Boston. We need to expand our opportunities for growth and employment, and passenger service which could bring people between Portland and Boston in and hour, or so would connected us to the rest of the prosperous Northeast Corridor."
- Comment: "Please provide a rails to trails alternative (i.e. turn a rail right of way into a public walking/biking trail instead of the existing rail use) particularly along the Freeport - Yarmouth - Falmouth - Portland line. Many of the rail lines in this area are rarely used and would provide a much larger public benefit as a trail."
- Comment: "From the research shown, especially in the FAQ portion, it appears the major focus on rail improvement and expansion is with freight. Is this true? Is there a particular model for expansion/improvement that the state plans on following?
Thanks and I look forward to the meeting on Tuesday"
- Comment: "I am offering public support for passenger rail travel in the state of maine."
- Comment: "I strongly support development of a statewide passenger rail network. I support use of my state and federal tax dollars to subsidize operating/maintenance costs in order to make passenger rail affordable for low and moderate income Mainers. With the uncertainty regarding the price of gas, we need to maintain the rail option. I oppose destroying railroad beds for use as playgrounds for ATVers and snowmobiles. We need passenger service not only to our south, but to our north to cities such as Montreal and Quebec City. I am all for restoring our passenger rail infrastructure-even if it means subsidization by tax dollars. After all, we're already heavily subsidizing the automobile, busing and trucking industries by constructing and maintaining our public highway system."
- Comment: "I, for one, would make use of rail connections between Brunswick/Bath and Portland rather than drive daily. However, there would have to be a reliable connector of some type from the rail station in Portland to the downtown district - for me, that means State Street near Mercy Hospital. Scheduling would also be key, covering daytime and evening work schedules. A connection to the airport in South Portland would also be an asset for locals, students and tourists alike. I am excited at the prospect of regular rail service!"
- Comment: "I have been waiting, most impatiently, for the State of Maine to implement a rail plan that serves Maine's citizens, ie. not necessarily summer tourists, but people who live and work in Maine. Like many people in Maine, I commute over 40 minutes 4-5 times a week. The GoMaine van service on my route is full and, as far as I know, there are no plans to install another van on that same route.
There is an obvious Biddeford-Portland-Lewiston/Auburn-Augusta-Bangor rail corridor. REVIVE IT!!! Existing bus lines and van pools could be re-assigned to service neighboring communities (say, Farmington-Augusta, Portland-Falmouth-Freeport-Brunswick; Lewiston-Brunswick; etc.). Why Maine is not developing that rail corridor and serving its citizens it beyond me. What part of "stimulating the economy" don't our lawmakers understand? Sadly, it seems as though lawmakers cannot see past immediate revenues. I cringe every time I hear that Maine DOT wants to widen lanes (great! let's put MORE cars on our highways!!!) or that the only rail plan in the works will serve mainly summer tourists (Portland-Brunswick).
Why doesn't Maine take a lead in state public transit? Other communities/states around the US are finally coming around and either made the commitment years ago to begin developing public transit options and are now seeing the fruit of their labors (see Seattle's awesome light rail/transit plan), or they are just now beginning to implement public transit on a wider scale (see Colorado). The benefits to a healthy state-wide rail/transit system would stimulate Maine's economy and create jobs. At some point, Maine is going to have to "bite the bullet": if you keep putting this off, 50 years from now Maine WILL be lagging behind. Begin to implement a serious state-wide rail system NOW, and be assured that 5-10 years from now, Maine WILL be a destination of choice for individuals, businesses, and corporations seeking to relocate in order to improve their quality of life/cost effectiveness.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you want more ranting and raving, and or citizen's point of view. I grew up in Europe, where public transportation/rail was second nature. It is a shame that Maine does not take the lead in a rail-venture that ultimately rejoins what Maine is all about: keeping our state a nature destination..."
- Comment: "I would really like to see rail service blossom in Maine, especially to BIW in Bath, but BIW is not interested, rather have trucks all day long drive to the warehouse thru downtown. I also doubt the Maine Eastern RR can meet the cost per ton that is on this web site. (Railroads move a ton of freight an average of 436 miles on one gallon of gas.
From 1987 to 2007, freight railroads improved their fuel efficiency by 85%. )
The need of passenger service, not tourist RR is absolutely needed. Again, BIW is not interested, rather support huge paved parking lots, and single commuters."
- Comment: "The Fiber Resource Group of Maine in Van Buren relies on rail service as a vital component of our short and long term success. While we do not always utilize the rail service there have been many times in the past where not having the availability of rail would be detrimental and costly to our business. In fact, a significant amount of long term value in being located in Aroostook County is due to the rail access we have. Losing the option to ship via rail would dramatically affect our incentive to maintain and potentially expand TFRG of Me in the future.
I hope you would please pass on my sentiments regarding this very important topic"
- Comment: I don't know how I got onto your mailing list, but I'm glad I did. I fully support the state's effort's to improve it's rail system.
My only comment is about cost. As far as I can see, cost is an issue, when dealing with large scale domestic spending, that is often used by opponents to kill important projects. Please don't overlook the importance of the point you made about subsidizing roads, bridges and highways.
I always marvel that Amtrak charges so much for their service. Why are they forced to raise their prices to cover more and more of their costs? Why do we expect public transit to turn a profit? What ends up happening is these services end up charging so much that they make themselves cost prohibitive.
With a family home in Rumford Corner and wondering whether their was some way to get up to our area without driving; perhaps through a connecting bus line or train line, I looked into the Downeaster But, having 5 people in our family the service is not even mildly useful at current prices. Whereas rail cannot get everyone everywhere they might need to go, a system of trains and buses could. Sure, you'd need to plan in advance, but wouldn't it be great if everybody knew that they could get anywhere they wanted, within a few miles, affordabley?
A cheap rail service to Portland could support a cheap bus system serving other areas. But by cheap, I mean really cheap. Sunday River for $15, total, from Boston. $10 to Portland on train and $5 to the slopes. What would the market be for that service? What about the same type of service up to downeast? If the State of Maine said, "Come on up to so and such a beautiful little ocean-side town, beach-town, camping, area, ski resort, etc. It's always $15... and once you're here, the local chamber of commerce will get you around with a mountain explorer or the like", then why would you need a car?
So, to me, it's the cost. Try running a pilot where you advertise a cheap fare to this or that area, and see how it's received.
- Comment: "Good morning. My feeling is that a passenger train should come up through Lewiston/Auburn and come to at least Jay. Jay has the rails at the papermill that just shut down and it is a prime location with room in downtown Jay. Jay could be a focal point for tourist going to our resort areas northwest and northeast of here. Jay is central to these locations and we have well maintained ATV/Snowmobile trail network that tourist could take advantage of. Also, many people from up this way have to drive to So. Maine to go to the jobs that are available, and if the rail service was timed properly some of these folks could make use of the rail service. I personally drive to Topsham everyday and the rail may not be of much use to me getting over there, but I am sure a lot of others would be helped out.
People from the south could us a passenger rail system to haul their snowmobiles/ATV's/Ski's up to Jay on the train with them and use the trail system, or a shuttle bus service to go to our own ski area or the ski areas like Sugarloaf or Saddleback, etc. Ponder it, you guys could make some serious improvement in jobs up here to service the customers using the rail service. Imagine someone in Mass or anywhere on the Amtrak wanting to come north being able to bring their equipment along with them. "
Michael W. Schaedler
- Comment: "Since I will not be able to attend the Maine State Rail Plan meeting at the Glickman Hall, Portland University of Maine Campus, I would like to propose my recommendation by e-mail to carry the rail system through Portland
From the Portland Rail Station the rail should be brought over to the Interstate 295 and then be an elevated rail going between the North-South medium to Tukey's bridge. It could proceed either under the bridge or on the travel surface medium over to Burnam & Morrill and then tie into the existing rail to Falmouth.
Your consideration on my recommendation would be greatly appreciated. "
- Comment: "All for it. I am MM&A's Communications Specialist dealing with Radios, Voice over Internet AEI, Remote Control Locomotive,End or train units, markers. Basically any electronic Technology now and for the future. Railroads are the highest untapped opportunities Maine could ever explore.
If people will step outside and look in, the future is unlimited as to what they can do for Maine. Break the paradigm and put Railroads on front burner. Maine will gain hugely from this vision.. With my background, I can go anywhere. I prefer MM&A and her railroad. There is no other job I am satisfied. It's not about the money. It is a true way of life. As Albert Einstein once said: Insanity is defined by doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. Railroads can change that altogether. Dare to be rare........ "
- Comment: "I just noticed on the internet one of your recent TAC presentations concerning your state rail plan update and upon review I wanted you to have a little updated information on a topic that was mentioned on one your slides; rail ownership in other states.
The following is detail from Georgia DOT, that spells out the public's rail ownership in the state. The following is their list of Department owned trackage including date of purchase and price. In addition, the State Properties Commission also owns 137.3 miles of mainline track and right-of-way between downtown Atlanta and downtown Chattanooga, trackage that has been leased to CSX and their predecessors for decades. So all told Georgia owns 690 miles of railroad. The CSX lease provides around $7 million annually to the State.
I know you are considering the recent MM&A track sale proposal and thought having some additional comparable market prices might be helpful to you. Unfortunately, GDOT and the state's past leadership didn't catch some of the segments before the class one railroads' bifurcation of key secondary mainlines prior to their spin offs to shortlines. However, Georgia, under previous administrations, have done a good job of piecing some segments back together.
Unfortunately, the State has missed countless other opportunities to maximize "shareholder" value with these rail assets, due to one fundamental flaw; lack of a public marketing and operational plan, when the private rail industry fails to provide the public benefits that these assets could and should provide.
I noticed in another one of your presentation slides, that your Department has set up the same achilles heel that has plagued Georgia and many other states that own trackage; MaineDOT: Not willing to subsidize freight rail operation and maintenance. If the State expects the private rail industry to achieve a; shift of rail‐appropriate freight from road to rail and service key manufacturing industries in a way that affects the quality of life and business conditions in the state, in a positive way, then don't hold your breath. It won't happen. Most Class twos and threes don't have the financial resources to risk on new rail services that take manpower, nor can the competitive rate that shippers are willing to pay for truck like intermodal rail service, afford any third party profit centers added into the equation, either.
Yes, Government needs to not offer subsidy to the rail companies to provide standard rail services but they do need to actively participate in the service design and oversight, if they want new rail services that truly help your shippers. Governments do need to contract for innovative rail services that shippers don't currently get from their private rail industry. Services that allow the public sector to determine and manage the quantity and quality of the public benefits that the public rail funding supports without expecting the private sector to bear the risk, alone. You do that in every rail passenger service project the public funds while trying to remove cars from our highways, so why would you expect it to be different trying to remove trucks from your highways?
I for one, have already proven that a small railroad can provide truck like door to door domestic freight service at competitive rates in short rail corridors for the fine paper industry. It was done for WestVaco in 1999-2001 from their mill in Wickliffe, Kentucky to their customers in the Louisville area, overnight, in standard 53' translucent roof highway trailers on a 225 mile long rail corridor. The State of Maine can do it for the benefit of your largest industry, too, and for the benefit of your small railroad companies, but you can't take a passive role in the process and expect much from struggling small railroaders. The St.L & A RR Auburn intermodal service is nice but it misses the bigger opportunity to help the whole State. It is totally dependent on the CN and their long-haul intermodal rates and service.
Good luck with your rail plan effort. I'm sure you will produce something much more than just another study document that sits on a shelf and gathers dust, so I trust this little bit of detail will be helpful. "
- Comment: "Greetings. More passenger rail service throughout the state would bring greater independence and improved health for all citizens. There are currently no public transportation options for rural communities in Maine, forcing us to rely on cars. That is 98% of the population.
This negatively impacts our health, with delays in doctor/clinic appointments due to transportation issues. Many of our patients travel an hour to get to our nutrition/diabetes/pain reduction/physical therapy/sleep clinics,and others have no car and rely on rides. Locals with no cars can't always afford a cab. With public rails crisscrossing the state rural communities will have greater access to the resources they need to stay healthy. "
Anita Landino, Rpsgt
St.Mary's Sleep Disorders Center
- Comment: "Upon reviewing your plan I noticed that all of your meetings are conducted in the Central and Southern part of the state and no meeting in the Northern part of the state. It even fail to recognize the rail abandonment up here in Aroostook County.
Does the MDOT even consider the negative impact for the County if the rail abandonment does take place? We are already have a depressed economy up here and by losing a vital asset like MMA Railway will be even more devestating We would like for MDOT to consider conducting a meeting up here in the County to help explain the plan."
- Comment: "We live in Windham and travel to Portland daily. Rt 302 is a congested mess on most days during the commute hours. We understand that there is growing interest in commuter rail going to and from Portland from the outlying communities.
We would welcome this. I worked in Boston for many years and commuted daily from the MBTA station in Ayer, MA. that commute was heavily used, cost effective and worked very well. This sort of transportation should be available in Maine to lessen congestion on the roadways, reduce pollutants, and otherwise make our lives better. "
- Comment: "I notice that on your Rail Facts page - http://www.maine.gov/mdot/railplan/railfacts.htm - there is no mention of passenger rail and the Downeaster...an important 'fact' in economic development. "
- Comment: "There has been no recent time where public enthusiasm for freight and passenger railroads and opportunities seems as high as it now. Some of these opportunities are achievable, while others may be visionary beyond reasonable hope of justification and accomplishment. However, today’s reality is that highway congestion and maintenance, CO2 reduction, fuel costs, connecting Class 1 railroads’ initiatives, and Federal stimulus programs, have coalesced to move the goal posts in favor of rail. How can promising opportunities be brought forward and implemented in Maine?
Maine’s forthcoming State Rail Plan is an important vehicle to identify and prioritize realistic goals to utilize and improve Maine’s freight and passenger rail systems. The following examples and questions seek to focus on potential rail opportunities that are not obviously “in play”, based on publically available information and observation.
UP/CSX now have two sets of dedicated, scheduled trains of high-tech refrigerated cars for produce moving regularly to a transfer warehouse at Rotterdam, NY (Albany area), from loading points at Wallula, WA and southern CA. A new UP/NS service has just been announced between southern CA and Atlanta. The new cars are climate controlled and equipped to receive and transmit information in real time regarding location and climate control for each individual car.
Does this development suggest opportunities for rail to recapture part of the potato and broccoli shipments from Aroostook County? Are there other opportunities to increase movement of agricultural products by rail?
- PAR and MMA regularly move tree-length pulpwood from northern Maine to the SAPPI Somerset mill at Hinckley.
Are there other long-distance movements of pulp wood in Maine that are candidates for return to rail? What barriers must be overcome?
- The new highway bridge and international border crossing station at Calais are nearing completion. Washington County, the Port of Eastport and MaineDOT are studying return of rail service accessible to the Port at Perry. New Brunswick Southern Railway, connecting with PAR at St. Stephen / Calais just received a Canadian government stimulus grant to upgrade its lines, including the McAdam – St. Stephens branch, to 286,000 lb. car load limit.
A substantial difference in allowable truck weights exists between Canadian, U.S. interstate and Maine roads.
Are there opportunities for a truck – rail transfer facility at Calais to load Canadian trailers and containers on rail cars for cross-border movement, and/or the transfer of goods between modes at a cross-dock warehouse, for shippers to take best advantage of the legal weight limit differentials between the countries?
- Maine’s principal MSW waste-to energy and landfill disposal sites are situated on or near active railroads. MSW and recycled materials comprise a significant percentage of all consumer goods in a predictable and ongoing stream.
Are there opportunities to move MSW and CD material to final disposal sites in Maine? Can some of this type material that is now imported into Maine by truck move by rail? Are there undeveloped rail opportunities for recyclables?
- Large quantities of potable water for bottling now move regularly by bulk truck from groundwater sources to bottling plants in Maine.
Can some of this volume be shifted to rail? What investments are needed for the specialized equipment and terminal facilities to this economical?
- The former Loring AFB at Limestone has potential for rail-served manufacturing and commercial activities.
What further re-development will justify reactivation of out-of-service track and competitive rail service to Limestone? What employment opportunities can it create?
- International Wood Fuels announced a new wood fuel pellet mill will locate in Burnham, Maine, requiring 200,000 tons/year incoming logs and 100,000 tons/year finished product. Assuming 20 t/truckload, this equates to 10,000 trucks in and 5,000 trucks out each year. With sources of wood and destinations for pellets forecast in Maine, is it realistic to transport some of this raw material and finished product by rail? Are other Maine fuel pellets mills candidates for rail? Why can’t Canadian pellets traveling through Maine by truck be shifted to rail?
- The former Kimberley Clark pulp and paper mill at Winslow, Maine (now Marden’s) is rail-served with substantial in-door tracks and loading dock. Some trans-loading now occurs there. Are there additional rail possibilities for this facility? How should it be marketed?
- Continued quarrying of limestone for cement at Thomaston creates large and expanding holes, some of which are now used for local MSW disposal. Are there environmentally acceptable economic opportunities to use these canyons for disposal of MSW and/or construction demolition material hauled in by rail?
- Are there unrealized economic opportunities for rail to move bulk commodities to some of Maine’s more distant locations, e.g.:
- Road salt?
- Diesel fuel?
- Heating fuels?
- Are there short-haul rail opportunities where rail can effectively displace trucks; e.g. aggregates?
- Is Maine positioned to take full advantage of rail developments by Class 1 railroads elsewhere in the US, Canada and Mexico, e.g. 286,000 gross weight capability; FRA Class 3 speed (40 mph)?
- Does today’s generation of purchasing and distribution managers appreciate and explore the potential for freight rail?
- How effectively are Maine railroads marketed to potential users – privately and by Maine’s DECD?
- How can public investments in state-owed rail segments be put to work more effectively?
- Do service, equipment suitability or availability, or competitive pricing issues inhibit expansion of freight rail uses in Maine? Remedies?
- How can the Pan Am Southern partnership stimulate rail service in Maine?
- Passenger Issues
- Downeaster operational support is the key to retaining and expanding passenger services in Maine.
- Stimulus project proposals:
- Downeaster extension to Brunswick
- Improvements to Downeaster route between Portland and Boston
- Mountain Division Connection to N. Conway?
- MERR interest in service to Augusta
- Service to Auburn
- Service to Bangor intermodal center
- Public support and subsidies"
- Comment: " In the event that I cannot attend the Technical Advisory Meeting on September 16 in Augusta, I offer the following observations on the questions proposed for discussion in small groups:
- Because it is geographically disadvantaged, Maine would benefit from having (1) common ownership of each of its principal north-south and east-west interstate rail routes, (2) 286,000-pound railcar gross weight capability in both those corridors, (3) consistent Federal Railroad Administration Class 3 track condition permitting 40-mile per hour maximum freight-train speed, and (4) additional strategically located sites for truck-rail transloading.
- As portended by the proposed abandonment of trackage between Millinocket and Madawaska, Maine is headed toward increased ownership and maintenance of “essential” rail lines, using the “highway-based” infrastructure model. The entire State network is economically fragile because of its light traffic density and a declining industrial base.
- The well intentioned IRAP program suffers from two flaws: (1) creating new sidetrack appendages to connecting main and branch lines that are substandard and deteriorating, and (2) not requiring supposed beneficiaries to have meaningful “skin in the game” (e.g., public investments in track at Fort Fairfield, North Anson and Topsham have seen little or no use). Transload facilities at Danville Junction should have had two-carrier access from the outset to increase utilization.
- To promote international traffic to and from the Maritimes, Maine needs coherent container-train corridors between the New Brunswick and New Hampshire borders and from Vanceboro to the Quebec border to relieve growing pressure on highway maintenance budgets. The State should consider assisting the respective owners of those key rail corridors by making “payments in lieu of maintenance” equivalent to a portion of the savings from reduced highway abuse for each truck taken off the roads (both truck diversion and highway maintenance savings are measurable).
- Realistic opportunities for attracting substantial new rail-using industry to Maine are discouraging for ongoing support of the present intrastate network. Aside from a generally negative business climate and rampant “NIMBY” resistance, most prospects involve low-value commodities and low-volume, random or one-time movements for inherently cyclical businesses that are unlikely to make up for an eroding base of forest products traffic.
- The statewide and regional realities facing policymakers include:
- marginal economic viability of remaining commercial rail operations throughout northern New England
- service implications of a deteriorated infrastructure (deferred maintenance leads to reduced train speeds and increased loss and damage)
- balkanization of ownership that impedes efficient solutions required for a truly comprehensive regional system
- historical inability of the affected states to reach agreement on equitable sharing of benefits and costs, and
- political decisions resulting in fragmented, excessive and unproductive investment (e.g., Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine). Legislators need to overcome parochial interests and limited regional vision and accept the notion of public-private partnerships to avoid further loss of rail infrastructure where rail-highway trade-offs can be made (e.g., across northern Maine). Nothing much will happen without strong, visible support from the respective Governors, which has been lacking to date. Federal funds available to rural states are unlikely to enable a solution without substantial commitments from state budgets.
- The State should emphasize improvement of main lines where operating efficiency is most critical, using its political leverage to encourage carrier improvements and providing assistance where justifiable (demonstrable public benefit with carrier participation, as on routes where mixed freight and passenger use could prove feasible). It should not be complicit in fostering unrealistic public expectations for grandiose visions that never materialize, which only serve to undercut voter confidence and support.
- Regrettably, the State has very little going for it in meeting statewide and regional rail needs. The declining influence of the paper industry increases the “pass-through” component of rail freight traffic, thereby lessening direct and indirect employment effects as well as opportunities for ancillary servicing and distribution businesses. A fundamental mismatch exists between public sentiment for “green” use of rail and the economic realities of preserving and upgrading the existing system. Not only is there is no Class I railroad presence in any of the northern New England states, so too have major industrial corporations left the region, replaced in some cases by “weaker hands,” as with the paper mills at Millinocket. Since a freight railroad can’t be stronger than its customer base, the vulnerability of these users is a continuing risk to sensible long-range planning and investment.
- Realistically, Maine is a truck-dependent state, because of its rural character, large land area, low population density, dispersed activity centers, and lack of a major rail-using industry to anchor a rail freight network. MDOT has an understandable highway mentality and corresponding asset orientation that extends to its thinking about rail. Serious financial constraints inhibit long-range planning, and federal earmarks have been the traditional source of funding for major projects. As a result, we have been in something of a “catch-up, patch-up” mode.
- From a passenger-service standpoint, the State should build gradually on the “Downeaster” base. Extension to Brunswick is the logical next step, perhaps followed by Auburn-Lewiston. Planners and politicians should realize that the economics of further extensions become daunting in terms of subsidy needs – because revenue potential in outlying markets becomes increasingly inadequate to cover variable operating expenses as distance increases, aside from capital costs."
George C. Betke, Jr.
comments submitted to the rail plan web site (page listings)