Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in Maine’

Maine State Employees To Get Downeaster Discounts

December 24, 2019

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority is giving a 15 percent discount to Maine state employees who use Amtrak’s Downeaster for travel within or outside the state.

The discount is available on all Downeaster trains. State employees must purchase tickets three days in advance of travel and reference promotion code v503.

A state identification card is required for travel.

The Downeaster operates five round-trips daily between Brunswick, Maine, and Boston.

More information is available at AmtrakDowneaster.com.

“We hope this discount will encourage state employees to choose a cleaner method of travel for both work-related and personal travel,” said Natalie Bogart, marketing director at NNEPRA. “It also makes travel time more productive and less stressful than driving.”

Additional Passenger Service Being Eyed in Maine

August 7, 2019

A study released earlier this year identified a potential new rail passenger route within the State of Maine that could be funded by a combination of fare revenue, state funding and federal funding.

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority is overseeing the development of the possible new routes

The Rail Authority currently manages the Amtrak’s Downeaster service between Boston and Brunswick, Maine.

“I think the time has come to look at alternative mass transit to help get people around,” said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Rail Authority in an interview with Trains magazine.

The agency’s passenger rail service plan released in May said potential new services could include diesel multiple-unit equipment would between Lewiston and Auburn, connecting with the Downeaster at Portland or Yarmouth.

The study identified three possible routes for the Lewiston-Auburn service, including an existing Pan Am Railways freight route, an inactive railroad right of way owned by the state that runs parallel to the Pan Am Route, and an abandoned route of way.

Capital costs range from $189-295 million to ready either of those alignments for high-frequency passenger service through to Portland, or $143-184 million to terminate at Yarmouth.

Quinn views the Lewiston-Auburn service as “more of a commuter-type connectivity” that would provide connections for longer trips to the Downeaster.

Another potential service change would involve extending the Downeaster further up the Atlantic coast to Rockland via a rail line owned by the state whose last seasonal weekend passenger trains ended in 2016.

The line has freight service provided by the Maine Eastern Railroad.
“The thought process there is using our third set of equipment and just extending up to Rockland,” Quinn said.

It would be a weekend only summer operation that Quinn hopes can be implemented next year.

“Starting up a train and have it go back and forth between two arbitrary locations doesn’t necessarily mean that this is going to be an economic success.” Quinn said, adding that additional study is needed to identify specific regional and social benefits.

The Rail Authority is also conducting a study of a new rail passenger station in Portland, where some Downeaster trains originate and terminate.

Amtrak now uses the 20-year-old Portland Transportation Center at Thompson’s Point, which is 10-15 minutes by car or city bus from downtown Portland.

For trains to continue to either Brunswick or Boston requires a reverse move that adds 15 minutes to the travel time.

The Portland station has one rail platform and is at capacity for car parking and bus docks.

The Rail Authority would like to see a new multimodal transit center along the Pan Am main line with a double platform so trains could meet there going northbound and southbound.

The Maine Department of Transportation is studying possible station sites and its report is expected to be released in September.

In a related development, the Rail Authority has estimated it would cost more than $100 million to develop passenger rail service between Portland and Westbrook.

A study found that lowest ticket price to cover costs would be about $12.50 per trip, not including weekend revenue.

The study said the next step will be to work with Portland and Westbrook officials to create an operating plan. That will also need the approval of host railroad Pan Am Railways.

Track Work Affects Downeasters on July 18

July 11, 2018

Track work being done by Pan Am Railways on July 18 will affect operations of Downeaster trains 683, 684 and 688 schedules will be affected on July 18.

Train 683 will terminate at Portland, Maine, with alternate transportation being provide on Thruway Bus 3683 to the missed station stops of Freeport and Brunswick, Maine.

Trains 684 and 688 will originate at Portland with alternate transportation from missed stops being provided by Bus 3684 and Bus 3688.

Rail Pass Offered for Downeaster Service

June 18, 2018

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority and Amtrak have introduced discounted fares through the Discover Maine Rail Pass.

The pass is valid for 10 one-way trips on the Amtrak Downeaster between any Maine station within a seven-day period for an introductory price of $19 per person.

In a news release, Amtrak said the pass is designed to encourage car-free travel within the state and highlight the popular Maine destinations served by the Downeaster.

Although the pass is being promoted to tourists at hotels, B&Bs and campgrounds along the Downeaster route, it is available through all of Amtrak’s distribution channels including online, mobile app, station ticketing kiosks and call center.

The NNEPRA manages the service and provides funding to support it.

Downeaster Trial Expansion Scrapped

March 29, 2018

A proposed extension of Amtrak’s Downeaster service has been canceled.

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which oversees the Downeaster, had planned to operate an extension from Brunswick to Rockland, Maine on three weekends this summer.

But Patricia Quinn, executive director of the authority, said the trial service was scrubbed because Amtrak could not conduct a risk assessment of the 58 miles of track to be used by the service in time for the trial runs.

Quinn said Amtrak would conduct its assessment later this year and that the authority is looking to conduct the trials in 2019 with a schedule that “hopefully can be more robust than three round trips.”

The trial service had been expected to operate in August with intermediate stops in stops in Bath, Wiscasset and Newcastle, Maine.

Comments Sought on Downeaster Expansion

February 20, 2018

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority is seeking public comment regarding a proposed seasonal weekend expansion of Amtrak Downeaster service to Rockland this summer.

The Rail Authority is scheduled to meet on Feb. 26 and may make a decision then about the proposed expansion.

Comments can be address by email to Patricia Quinn, executive director, at Patricia@nnepra.com.

The expansion would bring service to Bath, Wiscasset, Newcastle and Rockland over a line that has not seen passenger service since the Maine Eastern Railroad ended operations in 2016.

The Rail Authority oversees the Downeastern service between Maine and Boston, managing the budget, contracts, promotion, and customer services associated with it.

Amtrak operates the trains under a 20-year agreement using tracks of the Pan Am Railways and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

The Maine Department of Transportation owns the tracks between Brunswick and Rockland. The Central Maine and Quebec Railroad provides freight service.

4th Maine Town Backs Downeaster Extension

February 5, 2018

A fourth Maine city has agreed to help pay for an extension of Amtrak Downeastern service to the Midcoast region

Wiscasset has agreed to help the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority expand the Downeaster service beyond its current northern terminus in Brunswick.

The town’s select board unanimously agreed to fund construction of a boarding platform if NNEPRA is able to extend Downeaster service north, which originates in Boston.

Known as the “Coastal Connection,” the service would operate on weekends and serve Bath, Wiscasset, Newcastle, and Rockland.

NNERPA Executive Director Patricia Quinn said the service is expected to cost about $200,000. She estimated it would have potential ticket sales of $100,000.

Bath, Newcastle and Rockland have existing boarding platforms owned by the Maine Department of Transportation that could be adapted for Amtrak use.

The Wiscasset platform is expected to be built south of Route 1 near a public boat launch. The platform is projected to cost $20,000.

“I think this would be a great thing for Wiscasset,” said Board Chair Judith Colby. “If we could make it happen, I think it would be fantastic.”

Board Member Robert Blagden said the town should be “more than capable” of building a simple platform for the train.

Extension of Maine Service Could Begin in Summer

January 30, 2018

The extension of Amtrak’s Downeaster service to Rockland, Maine, could begin operating as early as this summer.

In a presentation to the Newcastle Select Board, Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority said the service would need financial support from her agency and the communities to be served, but passenger trains could use the infrastructure already in place.

Quinn said the tracks are mostly in good condition. Intermediate stops would be established at Bath, Wiscasset and Newcastle.

“The line was rehabilitated by a state and federal project back about 15 years ago, and is really in very good shape,” Quinn said. “It’s a solid piece of infrastructure that has been maintained.”

Rail passenger service to Rockland ended in 2015, after a contract between the state and Maine Eastern Railroad ended.

Quinn said that if her agency can obtain funding, it will sponsor one trip on Friday evenings and two trips on Saturday and Sunday.

NNEPRA will seek to get Amtrak’s Great Dome Car on the route to show off the state’s scenery.

Downeaster Extension Test Runs Set

December 6, 2017

New England transportation officials hope to announce in January the details of a proposed summer service to Central Maine.

The plans are to extend Downeaster service to Rockland in the “Vacationland” region of Maine.

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority has said that the service would operate on weekends during the summer. NNEPRA manages the Downeaster line.

Officials said that test runs are slated before the end of this year to examine the potential schedule and cost of extending service beyond Brunswick.

NNEPRA Executive Director Patricia Quinn said the trains would also stop in Bath, Wiscasset and Newcastle.

“It’s conceptual,” Quinn said. “We’ve penciled it out and we’re in the phase of trying to see if we can actually do what looks like [it] might be possible on paper.

“Obviously it’s a heavily visited area. There’s a lot of tourism up the coast of Maine.

Quinn said it would also be a “very beautiful and scenic ride.”

Passenger service to Rockland ended in 2015 after the Maine Department of Transportation accepted a bid from Central Maine & Quebec Railway to operate freight service on the line between Brunswick and Rockland.

At the time, Maine transportation officials said they would eventually accept applications for passenger service on the route.

“The railroad infrastructure is a valuable resource that’s not being used to its full potential right now,” Quinn said.

Part of the motivation for extending the Downeaster service would be to alleviate traffic congestion on U.S. Route 1

NNEPRA said earlier that the Downeaster carried 511,422 between July 2016 and June 2017.

Downeaster Expansion Being Studied by Amtrak

November 1, 2017

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority is eyeing an expansion of Amtrak’s Downeaster that will include two or three round trips to Rockland, Maine, on Saturdays and Sundays.

The service would be seasonal and seek to divert traffic from congested U.S. Route 1.

Downeaster trains currently operate daily between Boston and Portland, Maine, with some continuing to Brunswick, Maine.

Executive Director Patricia Quinn said Amtrak is reviewing the route to see what repairs and upgrades need to be to stations and track.

The 56-mile route to be used is owned by the state and was once part of the Maine Central. Freight operations are provided by the Central Maine & Quebec handles freight operations.

The line was rebuilt in the early 2000s and used by Maine Eastern tourist trains until 2015.