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House stands its ground in support of bill to bring passenger rail to Bangor

Measure would explore feasibility of extending passenger rail service northward

May 20, 2015

AUGUSTA – The Maine House on Wednesday insisted on its previous approval of a bill that pursues passenger rail for Bangor.

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

The House gave initial approval to the bill last week with a vote of 76-69. The Senate voted Tuesday to reject the measure. Following today’s action in the House, the bill will be sent back to the Senate.

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.

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.

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