The following is a list of comments that have been received about the Rail Plan.
Comment: The rail plan should include Lewiston Auburn. As the 2nd largest municipality in Maine and on direct route to/from Canada and many Maine tourism point--it only makes sense.
Comment: FULLY including L/A in this plan is vital to the economic development of our twin cities, as well as the larger region in general. We are the second largest populated area in Maine with many successful economic development initiatives underway that would both support and be supported by rail service. We already have an intermodal facility and connections, as well as the potential for MANY more connections to Quebec. How silly not to build on these?
Comment: Central Maine seems the key to economic prosperity via the rail system. The connection between Auburn and Canada should be exploited with updated rail connections from other parts of the state to Auburn. The coast has had its turn; now develop central Maine.
Comments: I BELIEVE THIS COULD BENEFIT THE ECONOMIC GROWTH OF THE L-A COMMUNITIES AND ALL SURROUNDING AREAS. IT COULD HELP IN STIMULATING OUR ECONOMIC STATUS AND HELP ATTRACT SOME FORMS OF INDUSTRY TO THE AREA ALSO.
Comment: There is no doubt that a rail system connecting us to Canada would benefit this State. There is no highway system that facilitates that connection. Moving freight and passengers to and from Canada would benefit many of Maine's industries. It certainly warrants serious consideration.
Raymond G Martel
Comment: As a resident of Auburn, I'd like to write in support of increased rail service to and from the L/A area. Coastal Maine gets plenty of attention, with tourists heading up along Route 1 and the increased cruise ship traffic to our ports. L/A is the gateway to Mid and Western Maine lakes, summer camps, ski areas and parks. It is the second most populated city area in Maine. Increased transportation to and from the area can only help to support and develop business and tourism in this area. There is much more to Maine than its coastline. Don't leave L/A out of your plan for the future.
Comment: I hope you consider rail expansion in the Lewiston-Auburn area when considering investing in the state's rail infrastructure. Auburn is a port within the governor's free trade zone with rail lines that connect us to Boston and Montreal and the Maritimes. It only makes economic sense to include the greater L/A area and specifically the port of Auburn adjacent to the Auburn/Lewiston airport as a rail hub for shipping goods throughout both the US and Canada and to expand the economy of this area and Maine. Please take the time to listen to our City leaders as they have so eloquently already spoken on why this rail expansion in Auburn is so important to this area and the State of Maine. Thank you.
Harry J. Simones, Auburn resident
Comment: I live and work in Maine, I live in Lewiston. I grew up in Danville junction and from an early age I realized the value that rail has for Maine. The development of the intermodal port in Auburn and the lack of connection rail line to other destination are of concern as we move forward. I strongly request that the Lewiston Auburn rail connections be made a huge part of the plan going forward. Thanks, Lee
Leroy (Lee) Fournier
Comment: The Town of Lisbon's future economic vitality is dependent on the rail. We are the one of the best areas for future commercial growth located between two interstate roads. This region Brunswick, Lisbon, L/A are the fastest growing regions in the state. We have the foreign trade zone that is under utilized and would connect use with our Canadian neighbors. The rail would also contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases and reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled though the region. Western Maine, Oxford and Franklin County region would benefit tremendously with rail service and make the area far more available to the southern Maine and New England. Please look hard at this region and support the rail connection from Brunswick to L/A to western Maine.
Comment: Thank you for allowing us to comment on this space to make express our interest in rail in Maine. I am a 40 year resident and taxpayer in Lewiston, and think it is time we were seen as front and center in this state. We are! We are the second most populous area, we have the only inland port, we own many of the rail corridors already, and bypassing L/A would be a political decision, not an economic calculation. The Legislative delegation is solidly behind the project coming to L/A, and we are willing to help in any way we can.
Sen. Margaret Craven
Comment: I am writing to strongly urge that Lewiston Auburn be considered a vital aspect of any rail expansion project. The L/A area has provided important residential development, expanded access to UMaine education system (USM-LAC) and (if memory serves me correctly) has an international (inland) port status.
L/A is Maine's second largest city and will be an important addition to this rail project. Please feel free to contact me for additional information.
Comment: My name is Justin Liudvinaitis, a resident of Lisbon. I am very interested in seeing the freight rail reactivated through Lisbon. I believe the benefits will be seen in Lisbon becoming a stop along the rail line and attracting businesses to use the services supplied by the rails presence. As well as provide an opportunity to act to provide rail with trails to our community. Rebuilding these rails will provide a unique investment in the town of Lisbon.
Comment: I have a very personal reason for wanting passenger rail service here in Lewiston. My boyfriend lives in Boston and travels up here almost every weekend by bus to come see me. He takes Concord Coach and I have to get him in Portland every Friday. Having rail service come to Lewiston would be tremendously convenient. I'm sure I am not the only person in this situation.
Beyond that, I have been working with the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association and have been giving some deep thought to revitalizing the historic train station on Middle St. Imagine a bustling train station next to Central Maine Medical Center and near the heart of Downtown Lewiston. And to make that part of reviving a historical landmark that lies empty, and becoming increasing in disrepair? This would breathe life not only to Lewiston and Auburn, but also our own neighborhood, which is quickly falling by the wayside in disrepair. It's an idea whose time has come!
Comments: I would like to see the plan specifically address the needs of western/central Maine, particularly the line running from Danville Jct thru Gilead and on to Canada. The role of Lewiston/Auburn as an important hub should be emphasized.
Comment: Although not able to attend the recent meeting in Lewiston, I find it frustrating that the state's rail plan overlooks Lewiston-Auburn for all the reasons I see already posted by others.
Response from Carol Morris: There seems to be a misconception that a state rail plan exists, and that it does not include Lewiston-Auburn. This is untrue. We are in the process of developing a plan now, which will provide a method of prioritization that will help state officials make the best overall decision as to what to invest in over time and in what order.
Thanks for your interest.
Comment: I would like to start off by saying how impressed and pleased I am with the turn out of comments both online and in person regarding the proposed rail plan. I have not had the time to attend a meeting but I have reviewed all of the minutes and comments online. Wow, who would have thought that Mainers had so much to say about rail! I believe a lot of the large topics have been touched on except for one very important one. Being a resident of Maine and growing up in the State, I have noticed how green and environmentally friendly we have been. I believe our State puts the environment as one of our top priorities when we take on economic developments such as this. Trains are a great way to make the State greener and we need to capitalize on that. Taking large trucks off the highways is a plus for both the casual driver and the environment. However trains themselves are getting greener and greener. Federal Tier Admissions restrictions are already in effect for railroads and emissions have been reduced by almost half with newer model of locomotives. While new GE or EMD model locomotives are expensive for the smaller railroads in Maine, rebuilt and re-manufactured locomotives are available for a smaller cost. These units which are commonly known as "Gensets" are becoming quite popular with many railroads big and small. They use batteries or small diesel engines to reduce emissions and increase fuel savings. In the long run these locomotives pay for themselves with the fuel savings and are just as effective as conventional locomotives. I have yet to see any discussion about Gensets in the State Rail plan and I feel it would be advantageous to discuss the topic. States such as California and Texas have pledged to help railroads fund these locomotives and as a result smaller Class III and Class II railroads have purchased them. If Maine were to offer a similar program where it would help fund a part of the cost for new environmentally friendly locomotives, it may give the States railroads incentive to purchase or even try out these locomotives. I highly urge the State to research and educate the public about these locomotives in an effort to establish a program to help fund them. Once again I would like to thank the State Officials and more specifically Nate Moulton for working towards a healthy economic future for the State. If anyone has questions, comments or concerns please feel free to contact me.
Thank you and Best Regards,
University of Maine
Third Year Marketing and Public Relations
Comment: Support for Train Development in Western Maine
The Island Explorer on Mount Desert has had great success. So has its sister bus service at Sunday River. These systems are free to the rider, yet are considered financially viable because of the business which they bring to the areas served.
I believe that the same will be said of an expanded train system in Maine. To those who would say it would be too expensive to develop and maintain rail service to Western Maine, I have offered the example of the above mentioned bus services.
Even if riding the trains to Sunday River or Sugarloaf were free, it would still be a good investment. And charging a modest fee could sweeten the pot still further.
If a train could come up to meet the Sunday River free bus system to transport happy skiers from Boston with skis and all, what a plus for the area!
If college students at Bates in Lewiston and UMF in Farmington could take the train to college and to events in one or the other location, what a boon to our environment and to our road system.
Ideally, I would hope to see the train come from Portland to Lewiston, with one branch off to Sunday River and another branch off to Farmington and possibly Sugarloaf.
I remember doubting the likelihood of trains actually reaching Portland when it was first broached in a meeting in Augusta. I doubt no longer! Let the trains roll!
Comment: There are scarce resources for rail investments. Any public
(state or federal) money should be spent according to the following
1) How many jobs will it create (construction and ongoing)
2) How much additional economic activity will it create?
3) Are we best leveraging existing resources?
4) Are we best lowering Maine's energy usage or increasing
The Can-Am Study concluded with the action strategy to "fill in the
hollow middle". Lighting-up the rail connections between Portland and
Montreal will bring easy access to 800,000 new tourists and greatly
improve distribution options for Maine businesses.
The free trade zone at the Port of Auburn is a competitive advantage for
Maine; it is already the largest dry good port in Maine, and sits on
international rail and interstate networks. Lewiston-Auburn has a
hard-working and trained workforce. The Port of Auburn is already
providing hundreds of jobs, and responsible for millions in state and
Comment: I originally drafted the attached comments (back in 2007, during a brainstorming session following my public comment on MDOT's "Connecting Maine" report, where I said I thought that the proposed level of spending on rails and ports should probably be doubled, from about 1% to about 2% (as best I can recall) of the total proposed transportation budget, for each of these two modes. I was going to follow up that brief comment with the detailed comments attached here, but I never submitted them to MDOT because, upon reflection, I decided that my proposals were just too ambitious to have any realistic chance of being funded, given the very limited federal and state funding available for rail and port projects at that time.
Now here we are at the end of 2009. A lot has changed with respect to the business community's and the public's transportation priorities in the last few years, given the big spike in fuel prices last year, the severe and prolonged 2008-2009 recession, the 2008 national election, and the resulting increase in available funding for rail and port projects, largely through the federal economic stimulus program (specifically the High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail and - particularly with regards to freight - the TIGER grant programs). The private freight railroads - particularly the big Class I's - have also been aggressively investing in major infrastructure improvements over the past several years, especially for increasing their capacity to efficiently handle much larger volumes of intermodal freight, which has been the biggest growth market nationally for rail freight in recent times. Also, when the U.S. Congress finally passes a new 6-year transportation authorization bill (whenever that turns out to be!), it will almost certainly contain additional funding for both high-speed and intercity passenger rail ($50 billion in Rep. Oberstar's proposed bill) and for freight rail and port improvements, as well as for improved intermodal highway connections. Finally, we have this new federal requirement that directs all states to develop a State Rail Plan, to guide and help prioritize future federal and state investments to improve passenger and freight rail service.
As part of the public input to the Maine State Rail Plan, it seems appropriate that I submit these comments at this time (BTW, I also attended the public hearing held in Portland on Sept. 29, mostly to listen to other's comments - which in Portland were mostly about passenger rail). You will notice that I have updated my attached 2007 comments (in black font) with additional entries in blue font, where appropriate. Since 2007, it has been gratifying to see some of these initiatives receive significant attention from MDOT, and several of them appear in the Governor's Rail and Port Investment Plan, which MDOT published in July of 2009.
In addition to my attached comments on port and freight rail infrastructure initiatives, I would strongly suggest that the Technical Advisory Committee, which you have assembled to help put together the State Rail Plan, not be disbanded at the completion of the Plan, but continue to meet at least once a year thereafter, to review progress in implementing the Plan and to help address any significant new policy, service or infrastructure issues that arise, with regard to either freight or passenger service - and in particular the interaction between them.
On the subject of insufficient available freight cars and reliable locomotives, which some Maine shippers have complained about (especially on the Pan Am system), as I make reference to in my attached comments, I would emphasize that right now is an opportune time for railroad companies to negotiate good long-term lease rates on (or possibly even outright purchases of) surplus, stored cars and locomotives (such as Pan Am has recently done with the low-cost lease of several SD40-2 locomotives from Helm Leasing Corp.). Even though the chronic car and locomotive shortage problem has probably been temporarily alleviated by significantly reduced shipping volumes during the current recession, this issue will reassert itself once the economy recovers, if measures are not taken by Maine's railroads to acquire affordable access to more equipment when it is needed. More equipment would also be needed to accommodate the future growth in rail freight volumes that I am advocating through the recommended infrastructure initiatives in my attached comments.
Finally, I believe that the single most important thing that would stabilize and improve rail service in Maine overall would be a much more aggressive effort at marketing and growing rail freight volumes and revenue, for both existing and new markets - particularly by Pan Am Railways (perhaps by adopting some of Pan Am Southern's increased service and marketing efforts in Massachusetts, which are being driven by Norfolk Southern's well established, very aggressive and effective service, marketing and capital investment policies), or possibly by a successor company to Pan Am. I realize, however, that MDOT and Maine State Government have relatively little leverage in this regard; the major impetus has to come from the private sector. Keeping the broad-based Technical Advisory Committee together and supporting it might be one practical, low-cost thing that MDOT could do to help effect this important initiative.
I will also have a few more specific comments on Passenger Rail, which I'll probably submit later this week - though generally I am in agreement with MDOT's existing plans and proposals for passenger rail.
Thanks for taking the time to review and consider my comments!
Jon R. Graback
Mr. Grabacks Additional Comments
(PDF Format) (Word 2003 Format)
Comment: The Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center (ATRC) submits its comments on the MaineDOT Rail Plan. As the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) responsible for transportation planning for the communities of Lewiston, Auburn, Lisbon and Sabattus, we take a great deal of interest in rail transportation as it enters and transits our area. Rail transportation has a distinct impact on jobs, commerce and the area’s economic opportunities.
While the recent report, Moving People and Goods, The Governor’s Rail and Port Investment Plan, makes several references to our area, we feel it could be substantially enhanced with greater focus on the following: Passenger Rail, Acquisition of the Lewiston Lower Rail Line from Lisbon Falls to Lewiston, Acquisition of the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Rail Line from Yarmouth to Auburn, the Auburn Intermodal Freight Facility, the proposed Intermodal Passenger Facility, the Auburn Foreign-Trade Zone opportunities , High Speed Rail Designation beyond Auburn and the Inland Port of Auburn.
The MaineDOT did a Passenger Rail Study in Auburn and completed an Environmental Assessment (EA) for a Passenger Rail Facility at the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport. Both the study and previous efforts concluded that potential passenger usage from Montreal, Canada, is quite significant. The State of Maine could be left behind if and when a route is established between Boston and Montreal through Vermont. The coastal economy could benefit greatly by introducing passenger rail service that comes from Montreal through Auburn on to Portland, then to Boston.
The Lewiston Lower Rail Line between Topsham and Lewiston has split ownership: MaineDOT and PanAm. At one time the line was abandoned by PanAm [formerly Guilford]. Several years ago, during the proceeding before the National Surface Transportation Board, PanAm [Guilford] reconsidered its abandonment of the Lewiston Lower Rail indicating its intent to provide freight rail service as needed. It is our opinion that freight rail service on the Lewiston Lower Rail has been in need for a very long time.
The current High Speed Rail designation runs from Boston, through Portland to Auburn. The State has an option to purchase the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Line from Yarmouth to Auburn. We highly encourage the purchase and the rail line upgraded to high speed service designation. The line provides the connection to the Intermodal Freight Facility in Auburn – the largest dry goods port in Maine, as well as the proposed passenger intermodal facility at the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport.
The Foreign-Trade Zone in Auburn is a great asset and needs to be promoted. The ability to bring goods from foreign countries via rail from seaports on the West and East coasts, have value added or simply held in a distribution facility for logistics purposes U.S. Customs duty free or deferred should be promoted. The General Purpose FTZ is in the area served by freight rail with access to St. Lawrence & Atlantic and PanAm, the Airport and Maine Turnpike.
As previously mentioned, the High Speed Rail Designation exists to Auburn. We have advocated, and with concurrence of the MaineDOT, requested that the designation be extended beyond Auburn to the New Hampshire boarder and to Montreal, Canada. The same request was made to our Congressional Delegation. The attraction for Canadians to our coast and on to Boston has been defined in studies and the use of High Speed Passenger Rail is essential to that travel. As expressed above, that opportunity could be lost if we do not act and act soon.
The Rail and Port report that is referenced above does mention that the Intermodal Freight Facility in Auburn moves more container cargo than any other Maine port and is listed under “Inland Ports” and it should also point out that it has double-stack capability all the way to the East and West Coasts of Canada. Coupling the opportunities of the “Foreign-Trade Zone” and U.S. Customs Port of Entry in Auburn should make it more desirable rail facility under Maine’s Rail Plan.
We appreciate the ability to have input on the Maine Rail Plan and would like to add that we do applaud your efforts to increase IRAP funding and greater use of rail facilities. Maine needs all of its transportation infrastructures to be systematically working at its optimum. Maine’s economic future depends on it.
Robert J. Thompson
Policy Committee Chair
Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center
Comment: From the City of Auburn City Council,
TITLE: RESOLVE – STATE OF MAINE RAILROAD INVESTMENT PLAN
Whereas, the State of Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) is engaged in creating a Maine State Rail Plan; and,
Whereas, the Cities of Auburn and Lewiston have built their economic development strategies on the transportation logistical advantages found in our area; and,
Whereas, the Cities of Auburn and Lewiston own a railroad line and have invested in improvements into the infrastructure; and,
Whereas, the City of Auburn, in partnership with the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad, Canadian National Railroad and the federal and state governments have already invested in creating an Auburn intermodal facility that has grown to be the largest dry goods inland-port in Maine; and,
Whereas, the City of Auburn intermodal facility serves as a regional demarcation point for Maine products to the rest of the world and a regional distribution center for inbound products throughout New England; and,
Whereas, the Cities of Auburn and Lewiston are a nexus point for both major railroad companies serving Maine customers and represent the second largest population center in Maine with 527,353 persons living within 30 miles of the twin cities; and,
Whereas, a federal designation of a high-speed rail corridor has been secured from the Portland waterfront northerly, to the City of Auburn; and,
Whereas, United States Customs clearance has already been secured for the Port of Auburn and Auburn has the only activated Foreign Trade Zone in central and southern Maine; and,
Whereas, the State of Maine has already completed a passenger Intermodal study and design of facilities to accommodate multi-modal passenger exchange at the Auburn/Lewiston Municipal Airport;
Now therefore be it resolved, the Auburn City Council requests the State of Maine Department of Transportation to focus attention on the opportunities represented by the unique rail infrastructure assets within the Auburn/ Lewiston area and its connection to the international rail and seaport network; and,
Be it further resolved, that the recommendations of the Maine State Rail Plan be measured against an economic model based upon 1.) The most economic benefit for the greatest number of people, 2.) The greatest opportunity to leverage public assets on private assets and 3.) Long-term sustainability; and,
Be it further resolved that the determination of priorities for the allocation of federal and state resources be measured against a cost-benefit analysis; and,
Be it further resolved that the recommendations contained in the communication from the Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center (copy attached) be incorporated into the analysis and funding priority determinations of the Maine State Rail Plan.
Be it finally resolved, that the Auburn City Council urges the State of Maine, and its Department of Transportation to value the existing infrastructure assets and rail designations already established in the Auburn and Lewiston area as having the greatest public benefit resulting from any current and future rail infrastructure investments as it relates to the Maine State Rail Plan.
Motion for acceptance: Michael Farrell Seconded by: David Young
Vote: 7 Yeas
Action by the City Council: Passed Date: November 2, 2009