Friday, February 5, 2010

Feds to Make Major Investment in Downeaster, Pingree Announces

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree announced on Jan. 27 that $35 million will be invested in Maine to improve the rail line between Brunswick and Portland to allow an extension of rail service to the Midcoast.
“This is a significant economic boost to Maine,” Pingree said. “It will put over 200 people to work improving the rail line and bring economic development to downtown train stations in communities like Freeport and Brunswick.”
Work will begin immediately on the rail line and train service to Brunswick is expected to start by the end of 2012.
Pingree has been urging Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to fund the project. In a letter to LaHood last year she wrote “the Portland North Project will have an immediate and significant economic impact throughout the northeast region.”
“We’ve already seen how the Downeaster has created economic growth along the existing route,” Pingree said tonight. “Now it’s time to bring that to the Midcoast.”
“This was such a competitive process,” said Patricia Quinn, Executive Director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority. “There were many, many requests for these grants and it’s really an honor that the Maine project was chosen.”
“If Maine had to borrow money to fund this project the interest costs alone would have been $18 million,” Quinn said. “This announcement means Maine taxpayers are going to save millions of dollars.”
Pingree said the extension of the rail line is “a natural tourism generator. Freeport is the number one tourist destination in the state.”
This will fulfill the dream for an awful lot of Maine people to be able to get on the train in Midcoast Maine and ride all the way to Boston,” said Wayne Davis, Chairman of Trainriders Northeast. “Nearly five million people go from the Boston area to Freeport to go shopping. That’s a big market that the Downeaster can tap in to.”