Thursday, December 10, 2009

Commens to the Dec 7 Rail Plan Public Forum

To: State of Maine Rail Plan
From: Maine Rail Transit Coalition
Anthony J. Donovan, Member

Date: December 07, 2009
Re: Maine Rail Plan Draft Recommendations
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.
1. 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.

2. 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. 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.
b. 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.
c. In Lewiston/Auburn local and regional investments should be made in the Lewiston Branch connecting Auburn Airport to Downtown Lewiston.
d. 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.
e. 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.
3. 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.

4. 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.

Train Time.

Thank you
Anthony J. Donovan
Maine Rail Transit Coalition

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Rail Plan Forums

Dear Maine State Rail Plan Interested Party:
Earlier in the fall, MaineDOT hosted four meetings around the state to get the public's feedback about setting state rail priorities in order to develop a State Rail Plan. The thoughts and comments collected during that process have contributed to a set of draft recommendations for state rail investment that will be presented at meetings this December. The meeting schedule is:
- Portland: Monday, December 7th, 6-8 pm at the South Portland Community Center, 21 Nelson Road
- Bangor: Tuesday, December 8th, 6-8 pm, at the Bangor Motor Inn, Hogan Road
- Auburn: Monday, December 14th, 6-8 pm, at the L/A Museum 35 Canal St. in the Bates Mill Complex.
- Presque Isle: Tuesday, December 15th, 6-8 pm, at the University of Presque Isle
We look forward to sharing findings and recommendations with as many folks as possible in order to get final feedback on the Rail Plan, scheduled to be completed in January.

For those who are interested, we have been posting public feedback on the MaineDOT Rail Plan website. You can read public meeting reports as well as see the comments received via email. You can access the site at

Friday, November 20, 2009

I asked the State MDOT about Railways (& Trail)

here is a responce I recieved - no author, no date.....

Re: Friday October 23, 2009 Comment Posted to the MaineDOT Rail Plan Website

Dear Mr. Donovan,

Thank you for the comments you posted recently on the MaineDOT Rail Plan Website. Like you, the Maine Department of Transportation’s Office of Freight Transportation is committed to creating an efficient, cohesive rail transportation system throughout the State. Comments like yours are invaluable in helping Department of Transportation work toward achieving its goals.

In your posting, you posited the query “What is the Law?”, regarding the promotion of rail transportation in the State of Maine. The answer is that the State has taken a two prong approach to the promotion of an effective rail transportation system in-state. The first of these prongs is the preservation of the existing rail lines and corridors throughout the State. The second of these prongs is the promotion of future rail service of these preserved rail lines and corridor by private operators. The Legislature has enacted a comprehensive set of statutes in furtherance of these goals.

As a threshold matter, the Legislature’s commitment to effective, efficient rail transportation in Maine is clear from the statements of public policy embedded in the State’s railroad statutes. In the State Railroad Preservation Act, 23 M.R.S.A. §§ 7101 to 7156 (1992 & Supp. 2008), the Legislature proclaimed that “a viable and efficient rail transportation system is necessary to the economic well-being of the State.” 23 M.R.S.A. § 7102. As part of the same Act, the Legislature recognized that “the State must take active steps to protect and promote rail transportation to further the general welfare.” Id. In addition, the Maine Legislature created the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority for the “general purpose of promoting passenger rail service” throughout the State. 23 M.R.S.A. § 8111 (Supp. 2008).

Current Maine law allows for the preservation of rail lines and corridors within the State in a multitude of situations. The Railroad Preservation Act vests in the Department of Transportation the authority to temporarily lease and rail lines and make contracts for the continuation service where preservation of the railroad line is necessary to protect the public interest. 23 M.R.S.A. § 7105(2). The Act also vests the Department with the authority to purchase or lease certain rail lines or corridors, under the right of first refusal, before the termination and/or abandonment of rail service or offer of sale of the rail line. 23 M.R.S.A. § 7105(3)(A). Lastly, the Railroad Preservation Act protects existing railroad rights-of-way from abandonment by providing that the end of railroad service does not mean or infer abandonment of the right-of-way property interest when there is interest in the eventual restoration of rail service by private or public entities. 23 M.R.S.A. § 7105(3)(B). In fact, the Act acknowledges that “it is in the best interests of the State to retain” these railroad rights-of-way “intact”. This is all part of a comprehensive effort by the Legislature to prevent the extensive in-state network of railroad lines for vanishing. In doing so, the Legislature has recognized how daunting the task of replacing these lines in the future would be.

By way of example, the Downeast Sunrise Trail represents a coordinated effort by the Department of Transportation and the Department of Conservation to preserve these unused railroad corridors for future rail use under the statutes identified above. The Downeast Sunrise Trail’s purpose is to permit a limited alternative use for the Calais Branch rail corridor, which the Department believes with benefit the populace and the economies of Hancock and Washington Counties, while preserving its future rail use. Future rail use remains the priority. As you astutely noted in your comments, the Legislature enacted 23 M.R.S.A. § 7108(2) providing that “[t]he Department of Transportation reserves the right to terminate at any time the use of the Calais Branch rail corridor for recreational purposes and to use the Calais Branch rail corridor for railroad purposes.”

The issue then becomes finding private operators to reinstate rail services on these lines. Although the Department of Transportation is plainly in favor of reinstated rail service, it is prohibited by law from operating a railroad. “In no event may the department or any other unit of State Government directly operate a railroad over a railroad acquired under this Chapter. The department may own the railroad line and lease or otherwise contract for its use by a private operator.” 23 M.R.S.A. § 7155. Rather, the State is limited to providing incentives to private entities to reinstate service, such as the Department’s use of the funds from the Railroad Preservation and Assistance Fund to purchase and maintain railroad lines, or the Department use of the Fund to provide financial assistance to short line operators. In fact, the reconditioning of the Calais Branch rail corridor through the Downeast Sunrise Trail project is itself serves as an incentive to private short line operators because it rehabilitated what was in many respects a dilapidated, cost-prohibitive corridor.

In the recent past, the Department has issued requests for proposals for reinstatement from short line operators for reinstatement for railroad service on several rail lines, but these efforts have been largely unsuccessful due to insufficient demand and the costs of reinstating service. However, the Department remains committed to its mission of creating a network of short line operators providing efficient, cohesive rail transportation system throughout the State.

Again, thank you for your comments and your efforts to provide effective, efficient railroad service in Maine.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Rails - Not Trails

The Maine Rail Transit Coalition is an assembly of individuals and interest groups whose goal is to increase Transit Options and Mobility by mobilizing citizens to press for sensible public policy to define and implement the appropriate role of commuter rail in Maine
My name is Anthony Donovan. I am a planner, transportation specialist, certified economic developer with a Masters Degree in Public Policy and certificate of Urban Planning from the University Of Maine Muskie School Of Public Service. I currently practice my profession as a commercial Realtor © specializing in site location of development on railways – specifically focused on Transit Oriented Development land use. The Maine Rail Transit Coalition exists primarily due to my dogged pursuit of good rail planning for Maine.

We are faced with a serious dilemma regarding the future of transportation in this country and a decision needs to be made immediately in Maine. Over the past 20 plus years, the State of Maine has invested a substantial amount of taxpayer money into the acquisition and restoration of state railway corridors. The opportunity presented by this investment for moving goods and people in an economical and environmentally friendly manner is significant.
However, while Maine Transportation officials plan on the one hand consider investments in making rail an effective transportation method, on the other hand (often another department) the state is spending more tax dollars on conversion of these same rail corridors into recreational trails. There is no data available on the impact of these decisions, and in fact there were no true analytical reports on the economic or environmental impacts of trails vs. rails done prior to construction of these trails.

A Transformation in Transportation
Over the past 18 months our coalition has been active in educating people, institutions and towns on the potential for use of railway corridors, for rail, in Maine and throughout the northeast. We have a vision for rail transportation that, based on existing corridors, can save money for households, municipalities and the state, while at the same time bringing substantial economic activity to the state, while reducing the impacts of transportation on the environment.
We offer a model for railway corridor transportation that could be applied to regions around the country and for example we offer the following concept for investing in commuter passenger rail service for the Portland region and its suburbs. There are 3 railroad corridors that we will reference. All serve Portland; one from the south, one from the north and one from the west.
The southern route is the PanAm Mainline, owned by Guilford Transportation, a privately held company managed in most part by its president David Fink. The mainline currently is used by PanAm for freight operations and is leased to the Maine rail authority (NNEPRA) for operation of Amtrak passenger service between Boston, MA and Portland, Me with plans to extend service to Brunswick. To use a highway analogy, the mainline could be called the “Interstate Highway” as it is a major arterial serving interstate transportation needs for Maine, NH and Massachusetts.

The northern route, the St. Lawrence & Atlantic railway (SLR) is owned by the State of Maine. Operations on this line are under contract to the state. The corridor intersects with the PanAm Mainline in Yarmouth, Maine and traverses the state from Portland, at the Maine State Pier to NH on a route to Montreal Canada. Towns in Maine served by the SLR include Bethel, Auburn, aforementioned Yarmouth, Falmouth and the City of Portland. The distance between Portland and Yarmouth junction with the PanAm Mainline is approximately 14 miles. Amtrak passenger rail service is expected to pass through this junction within 24 months.

The western corridor, the Mountain Division, is also owned by the State of Maine, with the exception of 4-5 miles owned by PanAm from the Portland Transportation Center, where the Amtrak service operates from, west to the Sappi paper firm in Westbrook. There are currently no operators beyond Westbrook. However, the State DOT has recently completed a study on the restoration of railway service on this line and has budgeted over $35 million dollars in the next round of the state Bi-annual Transportation Improvement Plan (BTIP) for this work. A grant has also been submitted to the federal transit administration (FTA) for funding through the American Economic Recovery Act. This route also goes to Canada, though NH and VT to St. Johnsbury. Towns in Maine served by this corridor include the City of Portland and its suburbs of Westbrook, Windham, Gorham and Standish. It intersects with the PanAm Mainline at the Portland Transportation Center.

Based on knowledge of passenger railway services in other parts of the country and the historical use of rail corridors, it is our belief that the SLR and Mt. Division have the potential to provide regular commuter service to and from the city of Portland. These corridors are capable of operating a double-track system, served by a train composed of a single or multiple DMU railway cars. This type of operation has the capability of moving more than 100 passengers at a time, at speeds of over 100 MPH, although realistically we recognize that 60 mph is adequate. We believe this service can significantly reduce the number of cars commuting daily in and out of Portland. There are estimates that from the north alone, 35,000 cars enter the city every morning.

A real need for real-time data
There is little data to support this investment in alternative transportation in Maine. Too often the Dot’s reject this concept out-of-hand due to demographic standards for railway investments used by the FTA. And, in our automobile-centric society the concept of rail service to replace autos is hard to grasp. Yet, no data has been used to determine if the railway corridors currently being converted to recreational use are in the best interest of the public taxpayers.
We would suggest otherwise and we are calling for a full determination by the State of Maine into how these decisions are being made. We are requesting a determination of what the economic and environmental impacts are on the uses, and if in fact state law allows these railway transportation corridors to be changed to trails. We need data collection and analysis on all aspects of the uses of these corridors. And we are asking that the state policy for expenditures on the acquisition of railway corridors clearly define the intended uses of these corridors.

What is the Law?
The State Railway Preservation Act[1] does not reference conversion of the rail corridors to any use other than rail, other than to state that “…the MDOT reserves the right to terminate at any time the use of the Calais Branch rail corridor for recreational purposes and to use the Calais branch rail corridor for railroad purposes”. [2]
At the Federal level, the law allowing the use of railway corridors for trail use specifically references that the use of trails are a mechanism for preserving railroad rights-of-way for future rail service. The law allows inactive railroad corridors to be used by qualified trail mangers on an interim basis “…until such time as these rights-of-way are needed for future rail service…”[3]

This week the MDOT is hosting a “celebration” of the paving of over five miles of the Mt. Division Trail at a cost to taxpayers of over one million dollars. That celebration is followed by a public presentation by a trails group of their plans for conversion of the entire length of the corridor to a paved bike and recreational trail. Railway corridors serving Augusta, Bath and Bangor to name a few have already been converted to paved recreational routes. Plans for the Auburn corridor are in the works. Portland is currently building a six million dollar paved trail on the only surviving corridor that served the center of the city.

At the same time the state is engaged in a rail plan. The Governor has submitted a new transportation plan for ports and rail, one of the largest rail way companies in Maine is fighting for survival business and the state has submitted grant applications to the federal government for almost $150 million in railway improvements.

· What is the law and what is the policy?
· What is best investment of public funds for the most number of people? and
· What is the best use of tax dollars for transportation?

We are faced with a serious dilemma regarding the future of transportation in this country and a decision needs to be made immediately in Maine.

[1] Maine Revised Statute Title 23 Chapter 615
[2] Although the Calais Branch has been turned over to trail use, and the rail, rails and ballast have all been removed, we assume this branch will never be restored due to the economics of the conversion. But, our findings are that the Mt. Division trail and other trails on state –owned railway corridors are being built in a similar fashion that will prevent the return of rail at any time, or it will be prohibitively expensive.
[3] THE NATIONAL TRAILS SYSTEM ACT (P.L. 90-543)(16 U.S.C. 1241 et. seq.) as amended through P.L. 103-145, November 17, 1993

Comments to the State Rail Plan Sept. 29, 2009

The Maine Rail Transit Coalition is an assembly of individuals and interest groups whose goal is to increase transit options and mobility by mobilizing citizens to press for sensible public policy to define and implement the appropriate role of commuter rail throughout the Northeast.

My name is Anthony Donovan. I am a planner, transportation specialist, certified economic developer with a Masters Degree in Public Policy and certificate of Urban Planning from the University Of Maine Muskie School Of Public Service. I currently practice my profession as a commercial Realtor © specializing in site location of development on railways – specifically focused on Transit Oriented Development land use. The Maine Rail Transit Coalition exists primarily due to my dogged pursuit of good rail planning for Maine.
· In 2008 I partnered with the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club to sponsor forums around the state to educate and inform residents and policy-makers on railway transportation corridors.
· During the last State legislative session I led the successful effort to pass a bill, LD 2019 that created a mechanism for funding capital and operating investment in rail.
· I have been involved in PACTS, advocating for rail over the best part of the last decade, I have attended years of meetings on the Portland North studies, the Brunswick extension, the State rail Plan, the Mt. Division and the Calais branch. I have contacts throughout the State who are advocates for railway corridor restoration.
· I represented the Maine Street Station Transit Oriented Development in Brunswick, and consulted with property owners of railway sites in NH, NY and Florida, and of course in other Maine locations.
· I currently represent the owner of Thompson’s Point, the 30-acres adjacent to the Portland Transportation Center. My firm has developed a proposal to redevelop this site for mixed used, transit-oriented development, leveraging local state and federal resources with private development interests. And, yes I may personally benefit from this site becoming a Transit Oriented Development. However, the concept is based on a the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority study projecting billions of dollars in benefits from proper development of station sites along the Downeaster railway corridor (Center for Neighborhood Technology, 2008).

Together with more than 20 years of involvement in the study of Maine’s railways, and from the rail forums we conducted over the past year, it is my professional opinion that;
1.) The Maine State Rail Plan must determine commuter rail markets radiating out along all of the existing rail corridors.
2.) There is a need to educate the populace on the locations, routes, sites along the routes and the cost & benefits of railway corridors.
3.) Once people learn about the resources a railway transportation corridor has to offer – right in our own backyards – they are very interested in how we might use these resources better.

The State Rail Plan needs to lead to better policy procedures in regards to decisions impacting the long-term viability of railway corridors including:
a) Rails with Trails, how they are engineered, and whether the economic benefit of recreational use of these corridors is in the best interest of the public.
Specific to Portland, there are railway transportation corridors that serve southern Maine and the Portland metro region which are owned in most part by the State of Maine. The Downeaster operates on the PanAm –owned Mainline, which can be compared to the Interstate Highway system. This major arterial can be fed by local railway “arterials”; the Mountain Division, the SLR, the Rockland Branch, the Augusta Lower Roads and connections to Lewiston/Auburn and Pineland. These corridors provide an opportunity to transform how we live, how we travel, how we create jobs, how we do land-use, and our methods of addressing congestion and environmental protection.

This rail plan should recognize that the Mountain Division and St. Lawrence & Atlantic railway corridors must first of all be preserved against obstacles that prevent the corridors from being used to their highest and best potential.
- We need a state policy on Rails with Trails and cost-benefit analysis of their impacts on rail.

- Roadway reconstruction projects that impact railway corridors must analyze the long-term impact of those decisions on freight and passenger use of the railway corridors.

- State, local and county plans for land-uses of railway sites should carefully consider the potential economic impacts.

Our coalition wants the State of Maine Rail Plan to address rail as a method of getting us where we need to go. We believe that the potential exists for using the Mt. Division Railway Corridor at least as far as Standish for commuter rail. We also believe that the SLR railway corridor could be used for commuter rail service to at least Yarmouth, and possibly serving Auburn and Augusta.

· A regional planning effort should be conducted as soon as possible (NOW) to provide a realistic assessment of the benefits, costs and potential of these railway corridors.
· A public visioning should take place, including a program of educating residents, policy-makers and property owners on these railway resources.
· We are advocating for a determination of ridership, commuter and land use patterns in areas currently adjacent to these railway corridors.
· We are advocating for an analysis of the various revenue sources for funding rail transit that are currently used around the country and the impacts of funding for rail operations and capital improvements through a tax on the consumption of gasoline and through a collection of tolls on the Maine Turnpike.

“Think of this as simply changing your perspective, accepting that the world is not precisely as you imagine. Historically every major breakthrough began with a simple idea that threatened to overturn all our beliefs. The simplest statement “the earth is round”, was mocked as utterly impossible because most people believed the oceans would flow off the planet. Small minds have always lashed out at what they don’t understand. There are those who create … and those who tear down. That dynamic has existed for all time. But eventually the creators find believers, and the numbers of believers reaches a critical mass, and suddenly the world becomes round… Perception is transformed, and a new reality is born.” (Brown, 2009)

Observations for the Maine Rail Plan Technical Advisory Commitee

Submitted by: The Maine Rail Transit Coalition

· Portland - Maine's largest city has approved a transit plan for its downtown area and financial district—a plan and strategy that can have a substantial bearing on public transportation, including commuter rail passenger service, throughout the Greater Portland region—and a plan that wants to substantially limit the impact of automobiles on downtown human livability.
· Without non-automobile commuter transit to Portland, the visions of the Portland Peninsula Transit Study, the Franklin Street reconstruction and other human-scale planning efforts may falter or fail completely.
· Six existing transportation rail corridors radiate out from Portland, South Portland and Westbrook—corridors primarily owned by the State of Maine. Used properly, these corridors can create more efficient, pleasant, economical, environmentally sound and humanly civil transportation to and from major nodes of activity in Portland and surrounding towns.
· The Maine Legislature established the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority and gives the authority the rights and responsibilities to "...take all actions that are reasonably necessary to initiate, establish or reinitiate regularly scheduled passenger rail service between points within this State and points within and outside this State", and it "is a body both corporate and politic in the State established for the general purpose of promoting passenger rail service.
· The Rail Authority appears to view commuter rail service along the Portland to Standish segment of the Mountain Division line - and perhaps along other rail lines radiating out from Portland into the suburbs – as having insufficient ridership markets to warrant attention by the Maine State Rail Plan process. The Rail Authority and MDOT appear to have no market-analysis statistics to justify such a view. Rather than as synergistic, the Authority considers other rail corridors as competitive.
· Perceptions of markets for commuter rail service may be based on the original Mt. Division study completed in 2007 that focused on commuters from the western Sebago watershed area. This is dated and geographically limited data, and does not reflect the massive urban sprawl that has occurred over the last 10 years in an arc from Buxton and Gorham to Standish, Windham and Raymond.
· With 8,000 to 10,000 cars daily on the River Road, and equal volumes on at least five other major roads (routes 302, 25, 114, 202 and 22) towards Portland, there seems to be more than adequate volume to warrant commuter passenger rail serving the Portland suburbs to the west. In addition, the commuters from Portland’s northern suburbs may be an additional 30,000 per day.
· It is reasonable to expect that the $28 million TIGER Stimulus grant application for upgrade of the Mountain Division rail line will be funded. This would provide the basis for restoration of this rail corridor, giving us the basis for constructing that rail link to standards for commuter rail service from Portland to Westbrook, Windham and possibly the Sebago lake area. This creates commuter rail access for a market that could be in the tens of thousands of daily commuters.
· There are many advantages to the Mountain Division as a commuter rail line. The corridor is “shovel-ready” for service offering environmental advantages, congestion mitigation, economic development, and an opportunity to showcase alternative transportation for Maine residents. Commuter rail offers the opportunity to move thousands of cars off the roads before they arrive in Portland. In addition, the Mountain Division upgrade grant application references a connection to Amtrak service in Portland as part of a state plan to link Maine rail to national destinations.
· To be fully functional, a commuter rail system must be connected to key employment and destination nodes such as downtown Portland, Maine Medical Center, Unum, Fairchild, IDEXX, National Semiconductor and the Maine Mall. Further bus and fixed Guideway transit connections would make these connections.
· If the state could purchase the former right of way of the old Portland to Rochester Railroad, the rail connection from downtown Gorham could extend to Buxton and beyond to Sanford. It is not too late for this to happen; this rail right-of-way is still mostly clear.
· In addition to the Mountain Division rail line, the State of Maine also owns the St. Lawrence & Atlantic railway corridor (SLR) offering further potential to serve the communities northeast of Portland in conjunction with expanded rail passenger and commuter service to Brunswick.
· To adequately assess the biggest passenger rail market in Maine, the Maine State Rail Plan must determine Portland metro commuter rail markets radiating out along all of the existing rail corridors from Portland, South Portland and Westbrook. From that data the Rail Plan must create an informed commuter transit vision.
· The City and citizens of Portland should reasonably expect Maine’s only passenger rail authority—the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority—to work in a manner that is consistent with such a constructive commuter rail vision and to provide an objective market analysis of commuter rail transit within the Greater Portland region.
· The Federal government in Washington recognizes that aggressive rail restoration is necessary to move people out of cars, reduce carbon emissions, reduce oil consumption, reduce highway congestion and make our cities more livable. By passing the Portland Peninsula Transit Study, the City Council of Maine’s largest city has recognized the need to accomplish these objectives. Therefore, MDOT’s rail plan and Greater Portland’s regional transportation strategy must move in this same direction. If the US Government is finally moving on rail, MDOT’s plan cannot cause Greater Portland to be left behind.
· If we snooze, we lose.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


"To adequately assess the biggest passenger rail market in Maine, the Maine
State Rail Plan must determine Portland metro commuter rail markets
radiating out along all of the existing rail corridors from Portland, South
Portland and Westbrook, and from that data the Rail Plan must create an
informed commuter transit vision."

Up coming Meetings of Interest

Upcoming meetings of interest :

Tuesday, September 29 from 6:00-8:00 pm: Public forum on the State Rail Plan at the Glickman Library, 7th floor, University of Southern Maine Portland campus.

Thursday, October 8, 6:00-8:00 pm: Public forum on the Gorham East West Corridor Study at the Gorham Municipal Office, 75 South Street (off of Route 114)

Tuesday, October 20, 8:30 am-12 noon: Workshop on the future of Maine’s international ocean and rail logistics capacities hosted by the Maine International Trade Center at the Glickman Library, 7th floor, University of Southern Maine Portland campus.

Wednesday October 28, 5:30-7:00 pm: Public forum on the Sebago to the Sea trail at Westbrook High School, 125 Stroudwater Street, Rm 114.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Editorials: Want more trains? Show up Tuesday

Let's give the Maine Department of Transportation an earful at the University of Southern Maine on Tuesday.
MDOT has not yet widely publicized the fact that it is currently spending eight months to plan the future of Maine's rail transportation system – the Maine State Rail Plan.
Well, Maine, unless you look forward to another 50 years complaining about being at the end of the line, you should come and tell the state how to modernize rail and get more efficient transportation for Maine people and products.
States to our south are restoring more rail service, and our Legislature has come to realize that Maine roads can no longer be kept in repair under the current gas tax funding arrangement.
Yet people out in Windham and beyond hope that MDOT will rebuild the narrow and dangerous River Road for their daily commutes in individual automobiles from rural serenity to the city.
But unused rail corridors stretch from Portland to Windham, Westbrook, Falmouth, Cumberland, Yarmouth and other suburbs. Greater Portland can either clog up its communities with cars or restore rail service through these corridors like other U.S. metro areas are doing.
Whatever people's opinions, Maine's rail planning needs public input, not just analysis by a batch of "experts."
MDOT's public meeting for the Maine State Rail Plan happens Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Glickman Library's University Event Room on USM's Portland campus.
Be there, or stay stuck in traffic.
Gary Higginbottom

Copyright 2009 by The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sebago to the Sea? or Portland to North Conway? or both?????

Sebago to the Sea Trail Public Meeting
Wednesday, September 9th, 5:30-7:00 pm
Standish Town Hall, 175 Northeast Road (Rte 35)

The Sebago to the Sea Trail vision is to establish a contiguous trail from Sebago Lake to Casco Bay connecting Standish, Windham, Gorham, Westbrook, Portland and Falmouth. Beginning at Sebago Lake, the Sebago to the Sea Trail will follow primarily the Presumpscot River, ending at Casco Bay. Approximately 18 miles of the envisioned 27.5 miles of trail is already in place, including the 10-foot wide bicycle and pedestrian trail along the Mountain Division Rail Corridor and trails that are part of Portland Trails’ 32-mile network. The Standish end of the trail is envisioned on Portland Water District’s Sebago Lake Land Reserve. Join us at the Public Meeting to learn more and provide your input! As I read this I was thinking you and I might have a conversation to help me understand the role of the Trails coalition referenced below. It is clear that they trails folks will be using the Mountain Division Railroad right of way for the purposes of non-motorized transportation and pedestrian, primarily recreational use.

you think so?
As I read this invitation, it raised the question as to whether a railroad transportation operation, preferably commuter rail, but for now excursion and freight, can co-exist with the trails. I should make that a question. My problem is I am a strong advocate of both methods of transportation, rail transit and bike/ped access. But, I am of the opinion that a railway operation will not be able to reach it's highest economic potential if it is limited by the use for a trail. We need to look to the long-term. Real commuter rail will need to travel more than 60 mph, maybe up to 100. ..................................

I thnk this is an answer that has to be resolved soon. The State of Maine has already turned whole corridors into trails, some still preserved for future rail Calais & the Sunrise Trail), some never again (portland's Uion Branch) , and they have built trails on rails at the Mt. Division, the lower roads to Augusta and on Portland's Eastern Prom. The state says it has a policy about distance, but I have heard that it is not up to national insurance standards for railroad operators.

I just think there has to be a clear understanding about this. There are many miles of Maine that make great trails. We spend a lot of money on roads that can accommodate bike commuters. We have a lot of sidewalks also. But there are limited railway corridors and, in my humble opinion , we need to be perfectly clear as to the limits of their use. The trail policy may be putting at risk the ability to raise the money for higher class rail, if it is been converted to shared use.

One thought I have is to take the question to the Technical Advisory Committee for the State Rail Plan whe itmeets in Sept. A clearly stated, acceptable and undertood policy might be useful.

Would you like to discuss this and other aspects of rail corridor restoration?

I am fairly flexible.

Feel free to share this with others.

Tony D

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Portland North Study Update

Much of the discussion on rail transit in Maine is of course about the Downeaster Amtrak passenger rail service to Boston. How do we pay for it? How do we connect to the Rockland Branch in Brunswick? For those familiar with the issues, what route do we take? The PanAm mainline? Or can we take the Maine-owned St. Lawrence & Atlantic RR (SLR)?

Well, the state is conducting a study (one of a few) funded by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) under a program called New Starts which is considering alternative transportation methods for alleviating the traffic on roads leading into Portland from the North

The interesting aspect of this study is that according to the original timeline, it was supposed to have been completed in 18 months - from Oct. 2007. Obviously it was not a priority. But after some gentle prodding (from yours truly) the State got the study back on track (pun) and last February 2009 there were 2 meetings with the Boston consulting team that was hired to conduct the $900K+ study (80 feds/20ME). One took place in Auburn and one in Portland. Great meetings, great company to work with and very good feedback from those in attendance.

Since the Feb. meetings however, not much else. The website was update in early March and there have been no public notices of meetings.....

Is this important? Well, the SLR offers great opportunity for a rail transit service between the Portland waterfront/financial district, to the suburbs of Falmouth, Cumberland and Yarmouth and - from Yarmouth Junction we could go to Boston ( on Amtrak mainline route) Rockland, via Freeport and Brunswick, and even better we could go to Auburn, Bethel, western Maine ski areas and onto Montreal Canada. Walking distance from the financial center of the largest city in Maine.

So let's ask MDOT for an update. And here it is for your reading pleasure and hopefully blogging comments.

as follows: (My inquiry, followed by MDOT response)

From: Tony Donovan []
Sent: Wednesday, July 22, 2009 3:03 PM
To: Moreau, Susan
Cc: Tony @ Home OfficeSubject:
RE: Portland North Study
Importance: High

Hello Susan:

I have not heard back from you with an update on the Portland North Small Starts Study. I was thinking it was due to my sending the request from my home PC. So I am trying again from my office.

Are any public hearings scheduled for this study? The last one was in Feb. and there were 2, one in Portland, one in Auburn. We spoke at the time about a need to have both groups meet together. In addition, town planners from Portland and Auburn were not present at either meeting, an over sight on their part I am sure.

Plus there has been no new information on the website. Which leads me to believe that the study which was supposed to be completed in 18 months from Oct. 2007, may be delayed once again. I believe that the railway corridor that is between Portland and Auburn could benefit from some of the activity-surrounding rail right now.

Perhaps I should get in touch directly with the consultant? I could write down my thoughts if that would be of any assistance.

I look forward to your reply
Tony Donovan

From: "Moreau, Susan"
Date: Wed, 22 Jul 2009 16:12:38 -0400
To: Tony Donovan
Subject: Portland North Study
RE: Request to Meet regarding Thompson's Point
Possibly from a stakeholder observation, the study may appear that it is not progressing. However, the team has met over the past three months with Pan Am and the St Lawrence & Atlantic railroad; as well as, individual meetings with city planners, economic development directors, selectmen & councilors from the City of Portland, Lewiston, Auburn, Brunswick, Freeport, Yarmouth, Falmouth and Cumberland. (We are currently setting up meetings in Gray, New Gloucester and Pineland)

Our objective at these meetings was to brief the community leaders on the project and discuss potential station locations/route, service barriers & objectives, and updates on economic development within each of those communities/cities. These meetings were also were focused on individual community needs and concerns relating to commuter rail or BRT.

Except for the recent meetings that I indicated, all meetings have been open to the public. At the upcoming public meeting in either August or September, we will offer the three (from the six original) route alternatives that were selected for further study. Ultimately, one route will be selected for the New Starts application to FTA.

Regarding the scope & timeline, the Department is satisfied with the work that has been accomplished and the pace of the study. Please feel free to contact Jay Duncan with questions on the study.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A New Blog for Supporting Rail Transit in Maine

A good friend and colleague recommended that we start a blog about revitalization of railway corridors. Although this is Maine-based, rail corridors, like the weather, do not begin or end at borders. Our purpose is a strong network of passenger rail transit services connecting our communities, as an alternative transportation choice.

More later.

Have a nice day