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

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