Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in Maine’

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.

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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.

Downeaster May be Extended to Rockland

October 26, 2017

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority is starting a pilot program for Amtrak’s Downeaster service that may see it extended to Rockland, Maine, next summer.

The announcement was made during a meeting of the authority board meeting. Officials said the Downeaster extension would go northeastward from the current northern terminus at Brunswick to Rockland, making stops at Bath, Wiscasset, and Newcastle.

The extension would operate only on weekends during the summer.

It would use former Maine Central tracks now owned by the State of Maine. Central Maine & Quebec handles freight operations.

The 56-mile Rockland branch was rebuilt in the early 2000s and until 2015, the Maine Eastern operated seasonal excursions on the line.

The authority, which helps operate the Downeaster between Boston and Brunswick via Portland, said it will have additional information about the pilot program in the coming weeks.

Amtrak Dome Car running on Downeaster Route

August 24, 2017

Amtrak has assigned its dome car Ocean View to the Downeaster route through late September.

The car, a former Great Northern Railway full-length dome car, ran on the route in August and September 2016.

The car will make four daily trips on the route between Boston and Brunswick, Maine.

Seats in the dome section are available to all passengers at no extra charge on a first-come, first-served basis.

Among the view passengers will see are the coastline, marshes and streams. The dome car will operate on the Downeaster route through Sept. 24.

Downeaster Service Beat FY2017 Ridership Goal

July 17, 2017

Amtrak’s Downeaster service carried more than 511,000 passengers during fiscal year 2017, which ended June 30. That was an increase over 2016 ridership and 2017 ridership goals by 9 percent.

The route between Boston North Station and Brunswick, Maine, saw its heaviest ridership during July and September 2016 and during January, February, April, and June 2017.

The record for patronage was posted in 2014 when the Downeasters hosted 518,000 passenger trips.

The service began in December 2001 between Portland, Maine, and Boston and was extended to Brunswick in November 2012.

Downeaster Fares May be Rising

June 7, 2017

Amtrak may raise fare on its Downeastern route. The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which pays for the service, is seeking public comment on the proposed fare hike.

The increase would be $1 one way or all trains and would create a new fare structure for one-way fares on the connecting bus that operates between Boston and Exeter, New Hampshire.

The NNEPR is recommending a $20 increase in monthly pass fares to and from Boston.

The fare increase is expected to increase Downeaster revenue by $287,000 annually.

In part, the fare increase is a response to falling ridership and revenue, which peaked in 2014 at 520,000 passengers and $8.6 million in revenue.

Coments are being accepted through June 25 at info@nnepra.com or at the website www.amtrakdowneaster.com.