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Amtrak seeks to extend rail service on the coast, not inland

April 12, 2021 GMT

Amtrak is asking Congress for funds as a part of the president’s infrastructure bill to extend passenger rail service up the coast to Rockland, but cities in central Maine, including the state capital, would be left out.

Amtrak has proposed extending its Downeaster passenger rail service to Rockland, which is located north on the coast from Brunswick and Portland. The train currently carries riders from Brunswick to Boston.

Amtrak officials are hoping Congress will provide the $80 billion designated for rail in Biden’s American Jobs Plan, they said in an announcement on March 31.

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Passenger service to central Maine cities like Lewiston, Waterville, Augusta and Bangor ended in the 1960s, the Kennebec Journal reported on Sunday.

The New England Passenger Rail Authority, which is based in Portland, operates the Downeaster under a contract with Amtrak. There have not been substantial talks to extend service to central Maine, NNEPRA Executive Director Patricia Quinn, told the newspaper.

“I know there’s interest, and we’re happy there’s interest in passenger rail,” she said.

The rail lines that run from Brunswick through Augusta, Waterville and Bangor are owned by Pan Am Railways but are in the process of being sold to CSX Corp., the newspaper reported. CSX Corp is one of the eight largest railroads in the country, including Amtrak.

Nathan Moulton, director of the Maine Department of Transportation’s Office of Freight and Passenger Services, told the newspaper they are working “with NNEPRA to keep the current system viable in the pandemic and watching to see how ridership comes back as we emerge from the pandemic.”