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Rep. Dunphy’s bill to bring passenger rail back to Bangor gains support

Measure would explore feasibility of extending passenger rail service northward

April 23, 2015

AUGUSTA – Supporters of passenger rail joined area lawmakers Thursday to speak in favor of a bill from Rep. Michelle Dunphy, D-Old Town, to take a step closer to bringing passenger rail back to Bangor.

“Expanding rail service represents a unique economic opportunity for our part of the state,” said Dunphy. “Passenger rail is fuel efficient, relieves pressure on our roads and provides an affordable alternative for commuters and visitors alike.”

The measure directs the Maine Department of Transportation to analyze the cost and feasibility of extending passenger rail service to Bangor. The department’s study would look at the condition of existing rail lines in the area, the possibility of accessing federal and other funding, the potential economic benefits and other aspects of expansion.

“Public transportation, particularly passenger rail, is a key component in building toward a future where Mainers can utilize multiple modes of transportation to travel for work and play,” testified Shenna Bellows on behalf of the Sierra Club Maine Chapter.

The Bangor City Council and Maine Rail Transit Coalition are supporting the measure. All four of Bangor’s representatives have signed on to the measure as cosponsors, along with other lawmakers from the region. Several spoke of the economic and community benefits of reviving passenger rail to Bangor.

“Bringing passenger rail back to the Bangor area would enhance our local economy by improving connections between communities across Maine and beyond,” said Rep. Arthur “Archie” Verow, D-Brewer, a cosponsor of the measure and member of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee who has championed the expansion of passenger rail.

Supporters lauded the benefits passenger rail could bring to the region as a whole as well as Bangor’s downtown and waterfront, which already draw crowds for events like the American Folk Festival and Waterfront Concert Series.

“We know from our work in promoting smart growth that railroads help revitalize local downtown communities and prevent sprawl,” said Bellows.

In November 2012, the Amtrak Downeaster expanded passenger rail service from Portland to Freeport and Brunswick. According to the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, the extended route had exceeded projected ridership by roughly 50 percent. The most common trips taken on the Downeaster are for vacation travel or to events, representing about half of passengers, followed by business travel, commuting and visiting friends and relatives.

The Transportation Committee will hold a work session on the bill, LD 1174, in the coming weeks. At that time, it will formulate a recommendation to the full Legislature.

Dunphy is serving her first term in the Maine House. She is a member of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee and represents Old Town and Penobscot Indian Island.M

Verow is serving his second term in the Maine House. He represents most of Brewer.

Contact:

Ann Kim [Dunphy, Verow], 287-1430, c. 233-1838