News From the Trail
Next Step: The Maine Legislature
COMING UP May 18, 2023 at 1 PM Public Hearing at the Legislature on Key Bill to Authorize a Trail Connecting Portland to Auburn
It’s finally here! The opportunity to show the Maine legislature how much public support there is for the Casco Bay Trail!
Please come support LD 209, a bill that would authorize a rail trail on the unused corridor connecting Portland, Falmouth, Cumberland, Yarmouth, North Yarmouth, Pownal, New Gloucester, and Auburn.
The hearing is scheduled for 1:00 on Thursday, May 18 in the Transportation Committee (Room 126) at the State House (directions to the State House here)
Your testimony can (and should) be very short, simply explaining in your own words why you think this rail trail is a good idea; and how you and your family expect to use the trail. A simple template is provided at the bottom of this message. Click here to see the bill language that we’ll be asking the Transportation Committee to adopt (current placeholder bill language here).
How to Submit Testimony
- Best Option – Testify in Person. Testifying in Augusta is a great experience and the best way to help the Casco Bay Trail come to fruition. Don’t be intimidated, we’re here to guide you and advise you in any way we can. Once we know who plans to testify in person (hopefully a huge team!), we’ll send directions, coordinate carpools (if helpful), and set a pre-hearing meeting place for lunch and socializing at the statehouse. You should bring 25 copies of your testimony, or we can arrange to make copies for you in advance. If you’re able to join (or just curious!), email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Second Best – Testify by Zoom and Submit Written Testimony. To be placed on the Testify-by-Zoom List, follow the instructions for submitting written testimony below and choose the “Zoom” option. Be sure to upload or paste a written copy of your testimony too.
- Third Best but Still Hugely Helpful – Written Testimony Only. Using the template below, or whatever format works for you, write out what you want to say to the committee about why you support LD209. Then follow these steps, no later than noon next Thursday, May 18.
- Click Here to Submit Testimony
- Click “Public Hearing”
- Click Choose a committee: “Transportation”
- Click Choose date: “May 18 2023 1:00PM
- Click Choose a bill: “LD 209”
- Click “I would like to testify electronically over Zoom” (optional)
- Upload your written testimony or paste it into the box
- Fill out your name, city/town, etc.
- Click “I’m not a robot.”
- Click “Submit/Register”
More than 700 people testified in support of the Casco Bay Trail during the advisory council process last year. If we can get the same support at the Maine Legislature, we have a real shot at getting key authorization for an off-road trail connecting Portland to Auburn.
The 25-mile anchor of the Casco Bay Trail vision is a rail trail on the St. Lawrence and Atlantic (also known as Berlin Subdivision) corridor through Portland, Falmouth, Cumberland, Yarmouth, North Yarmouth, Pownal, New Gloucester, and Auburn.
Over the last year, a Rail Use Advisory Council studied all possible uses of the corridor and issued a report recommending trail use. But the Maine legislature also needs to authorize its use as a trail. This authorization is no slam dunk.
The nuance (and controversy) is about whether this should be a standard rail trail or a rail-with-trail. A rail-with-trail design raises the trail construction cost considerably and introduces potentially prohibitive environmental complications through the Royal River watershed.
We argue that a rail-with-trail design is unnecessary, because there is another still-active rail corridor that makes perfect sense to prioritize for train use between Portland and Lewiston-Auburn. Thus, the best way to achieve the goals of “rail with trail” is to prioritize the active Amtrak & CSX tracks for trains and to prioritize the unused SLA corridor as a rail trail.
The SLA (aka Berlin Subdivision) corridor cannot be used as a rail trail without legislative authorization. Yarmouth State Representative Art Bell has introduced a bill, LD 209, that provides that authorization. We need your help to get it passed.
Other Big News
We have been collaborating with the Town of Freeport on the Casco Bay Trail segment from the Yarmouth-Freeport town line to downtown Freeport. There is already a trail from the Yarmouth-Freeport line south through Yarmouth, so this new segment would fully connect the two communities. We have submitted a proposal for federal funding to get this done. Fingers crossed!
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Want safer streets? Check out upcoming film screenings for The Street Project: Find out more and RSVP here!
Thursday, March 23rd, 5:30-7:30pm
Portland Public Library
Thursday, March 30th, 5:30-7:30pm
Jewett Hall, University of Maine Augusta
Thursday, April 6th, 5:30-7:30pm
Minsky Recital Hall at University of Maine Orono
January 25, 2023: Wrap-up of the Lewiston Auburn Passenger Rail Service Economic Impact Study, discussing the factors for applying for federal funding for passenger rail (starting at minute 22). The study concluded that a proposed passenger rail project on this route had low scores on ridership, cost effectiveness, environmental benefits, economic development, and other key factors.
December 30, 2022: The Maine Department of Transportation released a draft of its first-ever Maine Active Transportation Plan. The Maine Active Transportation Arterials network, including the Casco Bay Trail, is featured in the report. It notes that “this vision could provide an array of benefits to the communities along these trail segments as well and the entire state. Building on this vision, MaineDOT will work collaboratively with stakeholders, municipalities, and many others to identify the feasibility and prioritization of trail segments from this vision.” The report had a lot of good things to say about a bus route linking Portland and Lewiston, though!
December 22, 2022: The Rail Use Advisory Council voted 11 to 1 in support of a trail use for the Portland-to-Auburn section of the proposed Casco Bay Trail, with a majority (7 votes) specifically supporting interim trail. This is a very important development in the progress towards an off-road trail connecting Portland, Lewiston, and Brunswick—and it would not have been possible without all your support and comment! Almost 800 people (799, to be exact!) commented on the project, with 86% supporting interim trial.
December 5, 2022: Dozens of trail supporters spoke in support of an interim trail at a public meeting on the best use of the disused Portland-to-Auburn rail corridor, which is a key part of the Casco Bay Trail vision. For those who missed it, the recording is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1CP6t7q61Q.
November 18, 2022: The Department of Transportation issued a draft report containing information gathered during the advisory council process. Most excitingly, the report shows that nearly 600 people commented on the project, and 91% supported the trail use! This is an amazing show of support! Click here to submit more written comment in support of the trail. Every comment helps!
November 15, 2022: The Portland-to-Auburn Rail Use Advisory Council had its last meeting before the public comment meeting. The council is designed to gather information and make a recommendation to the Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner about the best use of a disused rail corridor that starts at the old B&M factory in Portland (the new campus for the Roux Institute) and extends to Danville Junction in Auburn—a key part of the Casco Bay Trail. Please take a moment to write at this link to let the council know that you support the trail!
September 8, 2022 – Portland Press Herald publishes a column by Michael Boyson: “Casco Bay Trail faces an important test. Let’s hope it passes.
July 28, 2022 – In its coverage of the Maine Active Transportation Arterials plan, WJBQ Radio describes the vision as “very ambitious and perfect for Maine!”
June 21, 2022 – The Casco Bay Trail Alliance, joined by 6 other active transportation organizations in the state, releases Greater Portland Active Transportation Arterials. Extracted from the statewide vision, the report is offered as an active transportation guide for the Greater Portland Council of Government’s Connect 2045 project.
June 3, 2022 – Maine Public reports that “A proposed bicycle trail system could connect Maine’s 25 biggest communities by 2030.”
May 27, 2022 – The Casco Bay Trail Alliance, joined by 7 other active transportation organizations in the state, released Maine Active Transportation Arterials. The report describes a vision for active transportation arterials or bikeways that directly serve all 25 of the largest cities and towns in Maine.
November 16, 2021 – In cooperation with Maine DOT, the CBTA hosted a November “hi rail” tour of the St. Lawrence and Atlantic rail corridor from Portland to New Gloucester. Attendees included staff from the offices of Senators Collins and King, and Representatives Pingree and Golden; municipal councilors, select board members, staff, and residents; and representatives from the Roux Institute, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, the East Coast Greenway, Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust, and the Nature Conservancy. Learn where you can legally view the SLA corridor on this Crossings Map, or enjoy this short video from the hi rail ride.
October 21, 2021 – We had a hopefully temporary setback when Maine DOT decided to delay their abandonment agreement with a freight operator on the St. Lawrence and Atlantic corridor. But our understanding is that this was not a decision to reestablish freight operations on the corridor; it was simply to allow for an evaluation of all possible uses during the upcoming Rail Corridor Advisory Council process. The story was picked up by the Portland Press Herald, AP News, U.S. News and World Report, Governing Magazine, and Yahoo News.
October 5, 2021 – CBTA board member Lee Cataldo publishes Times Record OpEd on Infrastructure Planning Intersects with Trail Projects at Critical Time.
September 16, 2021 – Momentum grows to transform dormant rail line to rail trail, News Center Maine
September 13, 2021 – Pownal and Cumberland became the eighth and ninth communities in the region calling for a study of the St. Lawrence and Atlantic rail corridor as a potential rail trail.
September 7, 2021 – North Yarmouth and Lewiston become the sixth and seventh communities in the region calling for the appointment of a Rail Corridor Advisory Council to consider a potential rail trail on the St. Lawrence and Atlantic rail corridor between Portland and Auburn.
August 19, 2021 – Auburn considers getting on board with a plan to connect rail trail to Portland, Sun Journal
August 17, 2021 – The Lisbon Town Council adopts a resolution calling on the Maine Department of Transportation to consider in its active transportation plan the proposed Lisbon-to-Lewiston rail trail, the use of the St. Lawrence and Atlantic rail corridor as a rail trail, and the larger Casco Bay Trail vision.
August 8, 2021 – Vision for rail trail from Portland to New Gloucester comes into focus, Portland Press Herald
July 26, 2021 – Falmouth Town Council passes resolution of support for a Rail Corridor Advisory Council, tasked with studying a possible rail trail on the St. Lawrence and Atlantic rail corridor.
July 20, 2021 – Freeport joins Yarmouth in calling for the appointment of a Rail Corridor Advisory Council to study a potential rail trail on the St. Lawrence and Atlantic rail corridor.
July 20, 2021 – Yarmouth on board with 26-mile rail trail, The Forecaster
July 15, 2021 – Yarmouth Town Council unanimously adopts resolution calling for the appointment of a Rail Corridor Advisory Council to study the potential use of the St. Lawrence and Atlantic corridor as a rail trail.
June 30, 2021 – Casco Bay Trail members joined with other trail supporters in a bill signing ceremony with bill sponsor Rep. Art Bell and Governor Janet Mills for LD 1370, Directing the Department of Transportation To Develop and Adopt an Active Transportation Plan.
June 22, 2021 – Maine looking for new uses for dormant rail corridors, Bangor Daily News
June 21, 2021 – Maine is looking for a few good ideas on how to use dormant rail corridors, Portland Press Herald
June 16, 2021 – Governor Mills signs into law LD 1133, creating a Rail Corridor Advisory Council process to “to facilitate discussion, gather information and provide advice to the commissioner regarding future use of the rail corridor,” and to “review and make recommendations on the likelihood, benefits and costs of potential uses of the rail corridor, including, but not limited to, rail use, trail use or bikeways.”
June 15, 2021 – Governor Mills signs into law LD 1370, sponsored by Rep. Art Bell, Directing the Department of Transportation To Develop and Adopt an Active Transportation Plan.
2020 – The Maine Trails Coalition released its Maine Rail Trail Plan 2020-2030, which identifies 13 priority rail trail projects and 5 exploratory rail trail projects. Four of these projects would be part of the Casco Bay Trail network. Many others would connect directly to the Casco Bay Trail network, thereby advancing a statewide vision for trail connectivity.
2020 – URI students Sarah McGraw, Samantha Lopes, & Lindsey Corse studied a potential off-road trail through Freeport (URI study). Starting at the Freeport end of the 3-mile Beth Condon Pathway (through Yarmouth), the envisioned path would continue from the Freeport YMCA to L.L. Bean headquarters, downtown Freeport, and on to the Brunswick line. L.L. Bean and the town of Freeport have already committed substantial resources for a trail as part of the L.L. Bean headquarter renovation project (PPH story).
2020- The City of Auburn completed an Auburn Trails Feasibility Study.
2019 – The Maine Trails Coalition conducted a poll showing that 86 percent of Mainers favor creating multi-use trails on unused rail corridors, if the trails could be converted back to railroad use if needed. (MTC Poll Results)
2017 – In collaborative work coordinated through the Greater Portland Council of Governments, a study was conducted of a potential “rail with trail” on the St. Lawrence and Atlantic corridor between Portland and Yarmouth. (GPCOG study) The GPCOG study included a video visualization of the trail experience.
2015 – As part of a GIS course at USM in 2015, undergraduate student Izaac Onos conducted an exploratory “concept” study of converting the Portland to Yarmouth section of the St. Lawrence and Atlantic rail corridor to a trail. (Onos study)
2013 – The Androscoggin Land Trust began its study of a 13-mile trail using the Lewiston Lower Rail line from downtown Lewiston to Lisbon, where it would connect with the existing 2-mile Papermill Trail. A feasibility study for the envisioned trail was conducted by Sebago Technics.
2010 – Long-distance multi-use trails were a key recommendation of a 2010 report on Improving Maine’s Quality of Place Through Integrated Bicycle and Pedestrian Connections, prepared by the Maine Dept. of Transportation, State Planning Office, Dept. of Conservation, and Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
1974 – The Maine Bureau of Parks & Recreation, Department of Conservation, and Department of Transportation release a report by an inter-agency study group on Bicycling in Maine: An Examination of Transportation, Recreation and Safety Aspects of Maine Cycling. The report highlights the benefits of bikeways, leading to the formal designation of bikeways in Maine Statutes in 1975.
1973 – The Maine Department of Parks and Recreation commissions a report on Abandoned Railroads in Maine: Their Potential for Trail Use.