Tuesday, August 10, 2010

letter to Sec. of US DOT LaHood

Maine Rail Transit Coalition
27 Riverview St
Portland, Maine 04102
Telephone: 207-774-6732
Mobile: 207-329-673
Fax: 207-766-2367
Mailto: TDonovan@Maine.rr.com

Build trains, not lanes!

RE: TIGER II Discretionary Grant Application submitted by PACTS, in Portland, Maine

August 3, 2010

Honorable Ray LaHood, Secretary
United State Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE
Washington DC 20590

Dear Secretary LaHood:

The MRTC’s mission is to elevate railway transportation to its proper balance in transportation investments planning and decision-making. We are committed to the preservation and restoration of railway transportation corridors for the purpose of moving people and goods as an alternative to transportation requiring roads and highways. Our organization along with coalition partners have been engaged in educating policy-makers, consumers and government institutions on railways in and connecting to Maine. We believe that investments in railway transportation will lead to new and enhanced economic opportunities around transit sites, including new and better jobs, affordable housing and energy efficiency. We believe that passenger and freight rail will reduce the household consumer costs associated with transportation and taxation and will better achieve goals required for projecting our natural environment.

The purpose of this letter is to express our strong opposition to the grant application for TIGER II funding, submitted by the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportations Systems (PACTS) to fund planning for a Greater Portland Bicycle and Pedestrian Project.

Our organization was an early and strong supporter of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. We believe that the Obama Administrations Livability Principals are the first opportunity in generations for our nation to address its addiction to oil and at long last to restore our railway transportation system that was once the most developed in the world.

However, railway transportation corridors are highly endangered, primarily by the notion that these critical corridors are no longer viable for their intended purpose and that they can be and are being converted to recreational trails for bicycles and pedestrians. Maine over the past few years has successfully sought abandonment of the only two railway corridors serving the Portland Peninsula and has converted one of the corridors to a taxpayer funded $6+ million dollar paved recreational trail. In addition the State has allowed railway corridors, including a critical link between the state’s two largest employment centers in Augusta and Bath, (BIW) to be converted to paved bicycle routes. Railway corridors leading out of the City to the west have also been converted. In each case these corridors were purchased by the state for the purpose of rail transportation.

The PACTS grant now seeks to convert the last preserved railway corridor linking downtown Portland with Maine’s second largest metro center in Lewiston and Auburn to a trail. The applicants may deny that is their intent, and they may claim as in the past that the trail is “only interim until rail is restored”. But we have learned the hard way that railway corridors cannot be reclaimed after a bike/ped path is established.

We are suggesting that if rail is considered as a viable alternative transportation mode for meeting the principals of more transportation choices, economic competiveness and expanded choices for people of all ages, income and races, then this “single-mode” study should be withdrawn and the applicants be required to collaborate on transit-oriented, mixed use development that revitalizes our communities and is a more efficient use of Federal funding of public works investments.

We have proposed to the applicants that the use of TIGER funds would best be suited to a study of the established Portland Transit facilities on the Eastern Waterfront that not only have received millions of dollars in FTA money to create a viable transit center, but that also lays fallow as the state and city grapple with how this critical waterfront transportation site might best be used. We are suggesting that the cost and benefits of a fully multi-modal transit center, enhanced by the restoration of the railway corridor that extends from here to Montreal Canada, is a better choice than a non-motorized recreational trail that takes away such a critical rail link north and west.

The MRTC membership participated in just such a grant application in June 2009. Although the proposal to fund a multi-modal study of the same corridor was ranked highly by PACTS staff, the Policy Committee of that organization rejected the proposal as being too early. Now it appears we are too late.

Our apologies for the length of this correspondence as we often find that when the discussion turns to rail, that it is a lengthy and involved topic. On behalf of those of us who fully support the Sustainable Partnership, we respectively request that the US DOT and Department of HUD turn this grant application down. In turn, our organization will actively reach out to our legislators and agencies seeking a collaborative approach to leverage these new Federal initiatives designed to meet the needs of communities such as we have here in Maine.


Anthony J. Donovan
Founding Member
Maine Rail Transit Coalition

For additional information please visit our website WWW.MaineRailTransit.org , or contact any on the following members.
Anthony J. Donovan - TDonovan@Maine.rr.com
Paul Weiss - Weissp@hotmail.com
Gary Higgenbottom - GHiggin2@earthlink.net
Susan Davis - Susandavis@mngrr.org
Ann Adams - annadams10@hotmail.com

CC: Maine 1st Congressional district Representative Chellie Pingree
Maine Governor John Baldacci
Maine State Senator Margaret Craven
Portland City Councilor David Marshall
PACTS Executive Committee

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