Sunday, April 29, 2012


From: Gary Higginbottom [] Sent: Friday, April 27, 2012 6:01 AM Subject: Mtn Division RailWay Corridor Have you see this yet concerning the Mountain Division line? Would you take a train or ride a bicycle to the Fryeburg Fair? We want to know!Click here to take the Survey. Thanks, I took the survey. Reasonably encouraging that GPCOG is even using the 4-letter r-word. Is it just tokenism? A Realistic Plan for the Mountain Division line -- 1) Short-trip transiters (on appropriate-size rail passenger equipment) between Portland, Westbrook, Gorham, South Windham, Standish -- offload River Rd. and 302. 2) Recreation and tourist riders from Portland/Westbrook to Fryeburg and North Conway -- including cruise ship tourists. Including putting one's bike on the train and going to Standish-Fryeburg-NConway for biking and overnighting. 3) Pellets and sand and gravel (and other items/commodities?) from the Fryeburg-Baldwin-Standish area to Portland Mtn. Division is an incredibly straight bee-line from S. Windham, thru Westbrook to downtown Portland, and right to the doorsteps of Mercy Hospital, Maine Medical Center and Barber foods- three of Portland's biggest employers - and in the future, to the Thompson's Point office/entertainment complex. Once people take that rail run on a quick DMU, it will change their whole geographic perception of Portland-Windham. But the bigger rail action is to L/A and beyond -- ultimately using rail equipment that is more appropriately sized than the big, infrequent Downeaster. Break the big cultural wall between Anglo-myopic Maine and the very large population/economy of Montreal-Sherbrook. (Peter Vigue understands it.) --Gary H.

Monday, April 23, 2012


WHY ME? Yes I do sympathize, if I do not actually agree with Governor LePage, in his quest to root out waste in government. We really must take a hard look at how we are spending government dollars, and who is making the decisions about how that money is spent. Are we rooted in policies that are protecting the special interests of institutions who should be working for progress rather than feeding off the troth of government taxes? Governor LePage is systematically rooting out unnecessary government agency spending that unfortunately cuts spending on some of our most needy. Which begs the question, have we considered all government agencies? Are there more interests out there that are wasting our money? Consider two recent examples of government spending that are not only not thought out, but both are spending programs from the great society thinking of the “Great Recession”, pre-2008, when resources could be wasted on special interests. The East-West Highway Corridor study and the plan to build a 315-car Interstate 295 Park and Ride in Yarmouth are examples of spending decisions made years (decades) ago by the State of Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT). The supposed to be “privately” funded 2000’ wide east-west corridor across Maine did not make sense when asphalt was relatively inexpensive, and a billion-dollar road for trucks certainly does not make sense with the price of oil in this day and age. The DOT is spending $300,000 on the whim of a few road contractors, when reports show an immediate need for $700 million for existing transportation infrastructure. The Yarmouth Interchange redevelopment is another example of MDOT engineers allowed to run amok designing some hair-brained “multi-model funded” program that will cost over $9 million dollars. This on a problem that could be resolved with just a sign and improved sightline. “But’, they say, ‘this will reduce congestion at the next Yarmouth Exit 17”. So we are spending nine million dollars to improve a section of highway1 ½ miles to the north. If you think this sound wasteful, try driving Route 1 in Yarmouth at the most congested part of any day. You might experience a ½ minute delay. I raise these issues because there is a better way. In fact the MDOT just completed a $1.3 million dollar study evaluating alternatives for a better way. The Joint MDOT/FTA-financed Portland North Alternative Modes Project New Starts study completed in August of 2011 considered 30 alternatives to highway widening. Problem is, MDOT rejected all options for a highway-based bus system that does not meet FTA criteria for funding. Did I mention there was seventy-five million dollars in federal funding available to Maine for any one of the alternatives, except for the one selected by MDOT? That would be $75,000,000 (six zeros). The Governor might take his tight-fisted budget axe across the street to the MDOT headquarters for some real savings, or at least a more sensible use of scarce transportation funds. Our coalition of transportation interests has taken a close look at MDOT spending over the past decade, and evaluated opportunities to save money and/or get a real economic return on our government dollars. Running out of room for this story, if you would like to hear more specifics, go to our site at www.MaineRailTransit.Org and join the conversation.