Comments Submitted to the Rail Plan
Web site: Page 3
The following is a list of comments that have been received about the Rail Plan.
- Comment: It's time to provide Lewiston/Auburn with appropriate recognition with the fact that most Franco's came via the Canadien National Railroad to this area. The line still exist and we certainly could re-establish passenger rail service to Montreal. Many from Canada vacation in Maine and they might use this service to come to Maine. It would also help Oxford Cty. They may come to ski in the winter
- Comment: This is submitted as public input to the State's current request for public comment to its draft Maine State Rail Plan. I plan to attend your Monday meeting in S. Portland.
Across America more and more active rail lines are adding parallel trails, called Rails-With-Trails, or RWT. I suggest adding trails to Maine's active rail corridors will provide many public benefits. An enhance Maine trail network that will:
- Enhance public health by providing more places for families to gain no-cost outdoor exercise.
Improve Maine's economy by improving Maine's many outdoor tourist recreation opportunities.
Closing multitude gaps in Maine's multipurpose networks.
Reducing trespass fatalities.
- Some opportunities include:
- The Eastern Trail in Saco to connect Kittery with Casco Bay.
- The Kennebec-Messalonskee Trails in the Greater Waterville Area.
- The Mountain Division Trail connecting Westbrook with Portland.
Attached is a handout that summarizes the reduction in rail corridor fatalities if trails were added to all American active rail corridors. Since this one-page summary was written and then updated for the current handout, Carl Knoch, Rails to Trail Conservancy, reports a great increase in the number of miles of American RWT to more than 1,100 miles.
Although the Federal Railway Administration and conventional wisdom have historically recommended keeping people out of rail corridors and if allowed to keep a separation of from 15 to 25 feet, let's consider Maine's sidewalks. How many would have been built if sidewalk design required a 15 to 25 foot setback from automobile and truck traffic?
I urge the committee to recommend adding trails to all Maine rail corridors to funded, not by the rail industry, but by trail advocates on a case-by-case basis.
Please see the following link for back-up information: http://www.flickr.com/photos/luton/sets/72157604060901425/
Best regards and best wishes as you complete your plan,
President Eastern Trail Alliance
- Comment: Passenger rail needs a stop in greene so a new large scale development (GREENE COMMONS) can prosper and create a world class destination for travelers.
- Comment: I hope the committee will seriously consider a proposed passenger rail extension to TREMONT/ACADIA NATIONAL PARK where the service could connect to the well-utilized ISLAND EXPLORER transit service. A high-speed connection to this region would capture some of the 3 MILLION VISITORS to the National Park.
- Comment: I wish to commend the folks like Wayne Davis who worked tirelessly to get the Downeaster back on its tracks and once they did that, they kept on working to generate ridership and funds to keep it running. I have taken the Downeaster between Portland and Boston about 15 to 20 times per year since it started running. Some of the things that I have noticed most about it are:
- It always leaves either Boston or Portland within a few seconds of the scheduled time and I suspect it would always have an on-time arrival if it were not for issues with Gilford or the MBTA.
- The conductors of the Downeaster have a remarkably better attitude than the Amtrak staff of the trains south of Boston. The cafe car staff even remember my regular order of a soft drink and have it prepared when I show up at the counter.
- The State of Maine has exhibited real vision and character by subsidizing the train while it has watched NH just ride along for free. It's not right that NH should get a free ride, but if Maine has complained, it is not obvious and that makes Maine a better, more responsible place to be associated with.
Based on these observations, I believe it is logical that that the highest priority of the state rail plan should be to extend the Amtrak to Freeport and Brunswick, i.e. reward demonstrated success with funds to expand so the Downeaster can be even more successful.
Thank you for your consideration and efforts to support rain service in Maine.
Richard T. Reynolds, PE, DGE
- Comment: Here are some project and line comments: These should be rail priorities in some order of preference from early projects to later ones.
- Immediate consideration for permanent funding for operations for the downeaster, including upgrades to the tracks and crossings for faster service to Boston and expansion of service to Freeport and Brunswick with coordination of the Maine Eastern RR connection to Rockland.
- Restoration of the Mt Division line from Portland to Fryburg. Including consideration for passenger servcie from Sebego into Portland. Consider dual tracks for that project and consider reaquiring the abandoned line from Westbrook into Gorham and onto Buxton (Old Portland and Rochester RR). At minimum connection into Gorham would add 10k in potential customers.
- Restoration of line and resumed passenger service from ME state Pier on St Lawrence and atlantic lines up to Falmouth, Cumberland Yarmouth to Yarmouth Junction. Including extended service to Auburn/Lewiston.
- Connection of this service in Yarmouth Junction to Amtrak Downeaster in both directions. Continued High speed service to Montreal, via Auburn.
- Restoration of tracks into Gardner and Augusta on “former” rail trail. Amtrak extended service from Brunswick to Augusta on these tracks with extended service to Waterville and Bangor.
- Immediate Purchase of all potentially abandoned MMA lines in northern ME.
- Restoration of tracks between Brunswick and Auburn/Lewiston including shuttle passenger service.
- Restoration of tracks and freight service on lines between Bangor and Ellsworth with continued service to downeast via Washington Junction. Including restoration of track to Calias ME.
- Restoration of track passenger and freight service to Belfast on Belfast and Mooshead lake RR. Iincluding purchase of last 3 miles into Belfast and restored terminal there include the purchase of Citypoint and Brook station as historic usable landmarks.
- Resotration of tracks for freight service from to current Portland container ocean terminal. Currently they are 600 yards short of being used. This could eliminate hundreds of trucks off of Maine roads.
- Restoration of all tracks to Eastport ME so that freight service can access with connections to Bangor and into Calias and Canada.
- Reconnection of Portsmouth Spur from maineline, so passenger service on downeaster could include Portsmouth and Exeter NH.
- Long term plans for restoration of freight services and passenger services to northern ME including Aroostook counties on MMA lines.
- Comment: Funding mechanisms for rail: While “normal” funding mechanisms for rail may have worked to some degree in the past (federal and state programs such as Tiger Grants, CMAQ, STAR, railbanking, Stimulus funding and state transportation bonding etc). In Maine and in the nation we are at a point of decision for rail.
The demise of the US rail system was started with the interstate highway system back in the Eisenhower administration and continued with the alliance of General Motors and Firestone purchasing and then dismanteling all intercity trolley systems in the US. The combined forces of big Oil, Big highways construction lobby, car manufacturers have been very successful in destroying the largest rail system in the World.
We have to make the decision to fund rail the way it should be funed for the future not from the past. This means taking advantage of all federal funding mechanisms but also doing what we can do here in the state of Maine:
- Gas tax: by making gasoline 1/3 more expensive and putting that market driven level of tax (33% of current cost) completely to fund rail transit both freight and passenger.
- Tolls: we need to charge interstate trucks and interstate trucks the actual damge they cause to the roads. A truck can do the damage of about 10,000 cars. So let’s charge what that costs us: If my car toll is $2.00 that would amount to $20, 000 per year in damage. Right now trucks pay about $13,000.00 in road use tax. So the difference would add about $8,000.00 for each truck here in Maine. If this seems harsh on the truck companies, perhaps we should ask for cost payments for the last 40 years that we have had the interstate highway system and they have been paying next to nothing for it.
- We should also consider increasing the tolls on the highways by about 50% and taking all that money and using it for rail transit, primarily for passenger rail (if services can be make across the state).
- SUV tax. All cars could be taxed in the state in an inverse proportion to their MPG. So SUV owners would be disproportunately taxed at a great rate than drivers of fuel efficient cars. This money could go into funding passenger rail across the state. It would also discourage the use of gas guzzling SUV’s (the HUMMERS, ESCALADES, EXPLORERS, TAHOES etc,). Some a adjustment for pure business vehicles should be made in addition so we do not penalize legitimate business uses.
- Airline tax. All parking and use of airports in the state should be taxed to encourage the use of rail for all transport under 600 miles. Planes are the most fuel inefficient forms of transportation; we should not be encouraging their use. We can discourage their use and encourage train use by this taxation.
- Form Private and public partnerships to fund freight rail, including agreements with national retail manufacturers such as Walmart, Home Depot Lowes and other box stores to increase their rail shipments and to locate box stores on rail lines.
- Form Private and public partnerships to fund passenger rail. This has been done in the past with the ski train. This was never fully funded and fell through. But these ideas could be done again with more public funding. There could be ski trains to Sunday River/Mt Abrams ski area. There could also be ski trains to black Mt of Maine in Rumford. We could also have ski trains to NH ski areas (Mt Cranmore, Attitash and Bretton Woods) right on a rail line accessed through the Mt Division.
- Partner with other organizations such as the Appalachian Mt club to have hiking trains to the White Mts through the Mt Division. This could include direct rail access to the northern Proesidential range in Gorham NH. The Appalachian Mt club might pay for some of these hiking trains along with the state of NH.
- Comment: Here is some information on light transit planning in Europe. It has some ideas we should consider here:
- The financing of light rail
- Light rail investments have been funded by German governments since 1971. A specified percentage from national petrol tax revenues is awarded to urban public transport systems.
In previous years, up to 60% of the cost of urban rail investment has been paid by the Federal Government, up to 25% by the Länder and the rest by the local authorities. Since 1992, the Federal Government maximum funding percentage has been increased to 75% in West Germany and up to 90% in East Germany.
With the constitutional changes which introduced a new regional rail transport law in 1994 an amendment permits the Länder to receive even more petrol tax for those parts of the railway network which are defined as `regional’ rail transport (in practice the local rail network). This will also affect those light rail modes which run on traditional rail track like the ones in Saarbrücken and Karlsruhe.
Since 1992 all French transport regions with more than 20,000 inhabitants have the right to demand a public transport tax which can only be used for public transport investment but also helps to pay operational costs. Every employer with more than 9 employees who is located inside a transport authority may be asked to pay between 0.55 – 1.05% of its total payroll as Versement Transport to the authority.
The local transport authority can decide, following agreement within the Communes, how they want to spend the money, as long it is on public transport. However the upper limit can be increased if new public transport investment is built, and since 1990 this upper limit in provincial France can be 1.75%. In the Paris region the variation lies between 1.3 – 2.2%. However, there the employers also pay half of the cost of travel cards for their employees. This is in addition to the Versement Transport.
At the beginning of 1995, of 190 transport regions about 90%, which had the right to collect this tax, actually used this opportunity.
The Federal Government of the United States spent about $18.5 billion over 1980-95 on discretionary grants for new rail starts and extensions, contributing between 50-80% of the construction costs for these projects. This funding made it easier to initiate projects, and often made up funding shortfalls when projects ran over budget. Critics have argued that the whole capital grants program is discredited and the Federal Government has no business in funding new rail public transit systems at the local level at all. Others conclude that the main focus of any reform of the process should be to remove discretionary control of the funding, which has proved to be an easy target of misuse. The 1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) launched the first major re-structuring of the US’s surface transportation programs since Interstate Highway construction began in 1956. It embodied a Surface Transportation Fund, which includes roads amounting to $120.8 billion over 6 years. Within this was included a Mass Transportation Fund amounting to a $31.5 billion mass transit program over 6 years, with its 80% Federal share for capital programs and 50% for operating expenses.
- The evaluation of light rail investments
- When studying the financing and evaluation methods in the various European countries and the United States, the political dimension of any method to justify light rail investment becomes apparent. Generally speaking, investing in light rail is seen by most politicians as being a good cause.
In Germany a traditional cost benefit analysis is used to justify the funds which come from the Federal Government. (This method is also applied in Switzerland, Austria and parts of Italy). One of the most important factors is the time savings to the public transport customer if a new line is installed. It is normally assumed that with each 1% time saving, additional demand of 0.75% for light rail service is created.
It is further assumed that the transfer is made by the car users and not from any other mode. In reality, there is little evidence on how many people actually switch from car to public transport. Neither the public transport operators nor the Federal Government seemed to be interested in this question.
Although comprehensive traffic studies are normally carried out by the French transport authorities, no cost benefit analysis is demanded by the Central State. The British reader may find this surprising but this was also the case in Germany until 1982. Most major investment decisions regarding German light rail and underground were all made before this date.
One of the reasons why the French may not require such an evaluation method may lie in the relatively low financial participation of the State in providing funds for light rail (only a maximum of 30% is funded). Funding of the rolling stock is not included in France but is in Germany. But the Versement Transport provides a significant proportion of the funds needed for light rail investment.
A very different approach is carried out in the Netherlands. Here the integration between land use and transport appears to be a very important factor. A traditional cost benefit analysis is combined with a multi-criteria approach, consisting of 20 different criteria. They include hard and soft measures and each of them is valued and weighted. This creates a balance sheet where the cost side is financial and the benefit side non-monetary. The results are provided as a benefit-cost ratio. Yet, independent of these calculations a high quality factor seemed to be decisive.
The Swedish studies allowed relatively little insight into their procedures but in the past a more traditional cost benefit analysis has been applied. This approach is questioned and new methods are being discussed that are similar to the Dutch appraisals.
The Federal U.S. Government does not seem to work with a cost benefit analysis as a decision device for the funding of light rail projects. But this does not imply that for an individual State that wants to obtain funding, cost benefit analysis is not carried out. In the past the decision making was highly political and more based on an equal distribution between the States than on a strict evaluation method. This may have been a deliberate choice because if such a method had been used the eastern States with their higher population and employment densities might have got most of the funding.
- Comment: Compliments to Nathan Moulton and the team he assembled with the HNTB and HDR consulting group. And to the Morris pubic relations firm for the fine work we have to date. There have been more than a few of us who have been advocating for a comprehensive plan for Maine’s rail corridors for many years. It appears that we are close to having a tool for stepping into a 21st century transportation system.
I have had the pleasure of attending the rail plan Technical Advisory Committee meetings and there too we have as team of some of the best minds in state and industry rail. One recommendation that comes to mind is that we might formalize this type of team for on-going sharing of information on policy initiatives, technical developments and innovative implementation methods for rail.
- Protection of Corridors. State Railway corridor acquisition should be done for the purpose of passenger and freight transportation purposes. Non-motorized use, paving corridors for bicycles and trails alongside and crossing the rails are undermining the current and future economic potential of these lines. Our group believes that the current practice of allowing trails such as the Kennebec River Trail and the Sebago to the Sea are examples of investments by State transportation planners that are undermining the corridor use and should be put on hold until a clear economic and environmental cost/benefit analysis is completed.
- Planning and Investments in State-Owned Corridors for Passenger Rail. The current recommendations to expand intercity passenger rail service north of Portland should specify that the railway routes with State investments be used. That would include:
A commuter passenger service from the section of the State-owned railway corridor beginning at the Maine State Pier and running along the Saint Lawrence and Atlantic Railway to Yarmouth Junction with investment in, or acquisition of, the corridor continuing to Auburn, Oxford County and on to Montreal.
From Yarmouth Junction the passenger rail service could connect at the PanAm mainline to the State-owned rail in Brunswick, to Bath, Lewiston, Rockland and Augusta.
In Lewiston/Auburn local and regional investments should be made in the Lewiston Branch connecting Auburn Airport to Downtown Lewiston.
The Mountain Division current investment plans should include local and regional planning for upgrades of the rail between Portland and Standish for commuter rail service.
In other parts of the state there are certain corridors that should be identified for longer range passenger service planning including the Calais Branch between Bangor and the Acadia Park region, the Belfast and Moosehead Railway and the Montreal Maine and Atlantic railways.
- Portland Passenger Terminal Location. Reconsider planning to relocate the train station in Portland. The Thompsons Point site serves the region very well, connecting 3 to 4 regional rail routes at an easily accessible highway interchange. This site has the potential for significant economic benefits from a Transit Oriented Development, as referenced in the 2008 NNEPRA Downeaster Economic Impact Report. Urban passenger stations in Portland, Auburn and other towns benefiting from railways, should be located as part of municipal land-use planning for a system of seamless integration of intercity and inner-city connections via bus, taxi, pedestrian and bike routes.
- The Maine Passenger Rail Authority. The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) must function as the primary agency responsible for implementing new or enhanced passenger rail service throughout the State.
- And finally: Let’s drop the notion of “it takes 20 years. Thanks to Wayne Davis and the successful efforts of Trainriders Northeast to restore passenger rail service to Maine - a foundation of passenger rail operations has been established in Maine, and we are ready for passenger rail service now. Thanks to the Downeaster management team of Patricia Quinn and her predecessors, we have a successful model for public and private shared use of the railway corridors that can be applied now. There is no reason to procrastinate for 20 years. If we think it is going to take 20 years, most among us will just wait to act. If we know we can do it now, most of us will act.
Anthony J. Donovan
Maine Rail Transit Coalition
- Comment: It is absolutely imperative that the Maine Rail Plan includes passenger rail service through the Western Mountains of Maine. This area is vital to Maine’s economic growth with unlimited potential locked in it’s natural resources. The Bethel area in particular is well suited to handle an influx of potential passengers with a proven local transit system already in place during the busy tourist season (The Mountain Explorer) that can effectively move additional guests to the many attractions and accommodations in the area. With the help of increased travelers to the area by rail in the off season (which offers significant growth potential in tourism dollars and jobs), the local transit system could be expanded to meet the demand. Bethel Station, the home of the Mountain Explorer in Bethel, is a perfect jumping off point for visitors arriving by rail. It has already served this purpose in years past. Passenger rail service from Portland and L/A into the mountains and lakes region will help alleviate traffic congestion and make the area far more attractive to those who mistakenly perceive the area to be difficult to access. It will also offer many local residents and businesses commuting opportunities.
The environmental benefits are well proven (greenhouse gas reduction most notably) and will help to protect the scenic beauty of the area by curbing the need for highway development which will also save significant future capital investment.
Further development of rail service on through to Montreal accesses millions of potential vacationers to the area. Canadians have historically embraced rail service and with their strong dollar and love of holiday travel, expansion to Montreal must be in the plan.
If the rail plan is to foster economic growth and job creation, there should be a very sharp focus on it’s potential to increase tourism. We must not overlook our most lucrative and stable industry, or the most easily accessible and asset-rich area in which to grow it. Montreal via the Western Mountains must be part of the Maine Rail Plan.
Hiram E Towle IV
- Comment: I firmly believe that our efforts must be focused on stabilizing the existing Portland-Boston passenger service. In some ways, that service is on shaky ground. Spending time and money on new services is pointless if the Downeaster goes under.
I also believe that the Downeaster could be improved in a number of ways, and again, we should be focused on that before we focus on launching new services.
Thank you for your time and effort.
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