The Casco Bay Trail supports trains + trails.
The Casco Bay Trail Alliance supports both trains and trails. Advancing both public purposes is possible, because the most logical corridors for expanded train service are different from the most logical corridors for rail trails.
The Casco Bay Trail Alliance believes it is not only possible, but highly desirable, to advance both public purposes, trains and trails, simply by prioritizing corridors for their most sensible use.
Portland to Lewiston-Auburn Passenger Train Vision
Maine has two distinct rail corridors between Portland and Lewiston-Auburn. And based on their respective locations, current uses, and conditions, one of them makes much more sense for trains, and the other makes much more sense as a rail trail. The Casco Bay Trail Alliance fully supports proposals for expanded passenger train service on the western corridor, shown in blue on the following map.
There are many good reasons for prioritizing the active blue corridor for trains. It is a corridor that is already actively used by trains. It connects to the Portland Transportation Center, and thus with all train and bus services to Boston. It provides opportunities for new train stops at Turnpike Exit 53 and Pineland, as well as Lewiston, Auburn, and destinations north.
There are equally good reasons for prioritizing the green corridor as a trail. It is a corridor that is not being used by trains and would cost more to refurbish for trains. It is a corridor that dead ends at Veranda Street. It is a corridor that connects to many other trails and would be a key part of the Casco Bay Trail vision.
Statewide Vision for Passenger Trains
Amtrak trains currently run from Boston to stops in Wells, Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Portland, Freeport, and Brunswick. The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority plans to relocate the Portland station to avoid trains having to “back up” to get to the main track north to Freeport and Brunswick. They are also planning a new stop at Maine Turnpike Exit 53. These are excellent projects that the Casco Bay Trail Alliance enthusiastically supports.
Also being considered are a potential Amtrak extension from Brunswick to Rockland, and potential passenger services from Portland to Lewiston-Auburn and Bangor. Our complementary vision for trains and trails connects Maine’s largest population Centers by train using a continuous and still-active corridor from Amtrak’s Portland station to Lewiston-Auburn, Waterville, and Bangor – all on the same line. Assuming such train services are determined to be economically viable, the Casco Bay Trail Alliance strongly supports these projects too. The map below shows these expanded passenger train projects.
Complementary Vision for Trains and Trails
The complementarity of visions – train and trail – is shown by overlaying the two maps – the train vision, and the active transportation vision. We have an opportunity to accomplish both public purposes by prioritizing certain corridors for trains and other corridors for trails. This dual vision is illustrated below.
The recent CBTA report, Southern Maine Vision for Trains and Trails, contains clearer versions of these maps, and a descriptive overview of the complementary vision for trains and trails. A related report by the Maine Trails Coalition, Maine Rail Trail Plan 2020-2030, identifies other priority rail trail projects statewide.
Passenger Rail Feasibility Study
In 2018-2019, the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority conducted a two-part feasibility assessment of establishing passenger rail service on one or the other of these corridors (Transit Propensity Report, Operating Plans and Corridor Assessment). A previous study was conducted by the Maine Dept. of Transportation in 2011.
The Big Picture: Multi-Modal Connectivity
See how rail, bus, car, ferry, and bike ways connect.