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House gives initial approval to Dunphy’s bill to bring passenger rail to Bangor

Measure would explore feasibility of extending passenger rail service northward

May 14, 2015

AUGUSTA – The House gave its initial approval to a measure from Rep. Michelle Dunphy to take a step toward bringing passenger rail back to Bangor.

“The outpouring of support from our constituents, local officials and people across the state shows Mainers are passionate about this idea,” said Dunphy, D-Old Town. “I am pleased with the House’s support of my bill and am committed to the pursuit of passenger rail expansion and the economic boon it would provide our region.”

The measure would direct the Maine Department of Transportation to analyze the cost and feasibility of extending passenger rail service to Bangor. The study would look at the condition of existing rail lines in the area, possible federal and other funding and the potential economic benefits.

The Bangor City Council supports Dunphy’s bill as a step toward returning passenger rail to the city. All four of Bangor’s representatives cosponsored the measure, along with other lawmakers from the region.

“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.

Reps. Aaron Frey, D-Bangor, Adam Goode, D-Bangor, Tori Kornfield, D-Bangor, John Schneck, D-Bangor, Ryan Tipping-Spitz, D-Orono, Bob Duchesne, D-Hudson, and Jim Davitt, D-Hampden, joined Dunphy and Verow in voting to support the measure. The vote was 76-69.

At LD 1174’s public hearing last month, 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.

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 bill faces further votes in both the House and the Senate.

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.

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