New England stories from the region's top public media newsrooms
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Downeaster receives millions for maintenance, planning for future service improvements

The Amtrak Downeaster arrives at the station, Wednesday, March 8, 2023, in Freeport, Maine. The New Hampshire Liquor Commission says it is "exploring a creative solution" after saying an Amtrak route from Maine to Boston can't serve alcohol while passing through 35 miles of New Hampshire.
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP
The Amtrak Downeaster arrives at the station, Wednesday, March 8, 2023, in Freeport, Maine. The New Hampshire Liquor Commission says it is "exploring a creative solution" after saying an Amtrak route from Maine to Boston can't serve alcohol while passing through 35 miles of New Hampshire.

The Downeaster rail corridor has secured a $27.5 million federal grant to improve the main line from Brunswick to the Massachusetts border.

The funds will help replace some 124,000 railroad ties and should improve the delivery of freight into Maine. CSX Transportation, which owns the line, has agreed to contribute another $6.8 million.

The maintenance will bring the line into a state of good repair, and it will ultimately improve service for Amtrak travelers as well, said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.

"[It will] eliminate speed restrictions and slow orders, so we can operate at speed more reliably," she said "But also these types of maintenance improvements set the stage for future improvements that we might want to explore, for instance reducing travel time."

The rail authority also received an additional $500,000 to begin planning for several Amtrak improvements, which include relocating the Portland station, adding a new stop in Falmouth and eventually extending service to Rockland.

The Downeaster has seen record-breaking ridership over the last five months, Quinn said, and these projects are intended to make the service more reliable, fast and convenient.

An envisioned station in Falmouth off of I-95, for example, would give passengers traveling from west or north of Portland another option, Quinn added.

"It would make it more convenient for people, and it will reduce vehicle miles traveled, because people won't have to come all the way into Portland," she said. "So it will save almost 25 miles roundtrip, to put that station there for folks who are coming from say, the Lewiston-Auburn area."

The federal grants were among the 10 passenger rail projects across the country receiving some $8.2 billion in funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation, which made the announcement Friday.