AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Expanding rail service on existing rail lines that carry freight is the focus of several bills being considered in Augusta.
Lawmakers know it could take millions of dollars and years to expand passenger rail service to communities west and north of Brunswick, the last stop for the Amtrack Downeaster. But they are pushing forward because communities who want to benefit from passenger rail service.
At a news conference Thursday, a handful of lawmakers talked about several bills that would enhance the state's Passenger Rail Authority, instruct the Maine DOT to seek federal train funding and dedicate 20 percent of the marijuana tax revenue to the state's Multimodel Transportation Fund.
Supporters believe upgrading lines would relieve traffic congestion on I-295.
Lawmakers want the state to lobby for some of the billions of dollars of federal infrastructure funds being proposed by the Trump administration. They are also hopeful that the Legislature will pass legislation that will put a bond issue before voters in 2018 that would create transit corridor districts in different communities.
It provides a $50 million bond for that and can be used to create inter-model connections for the bus, train and even bike lanes, according to Sen. David Miramonte, D-Camden.
As for the line between Portland and Lewiston, an important step is securing money to upgrade 13 miles of state rail that runs between Yarmouth and Danville Junction in Auburn.
It is also key to expanding service into western Maine that eventually connects to Montreal.
The hope is work could begin on the Portland-LA line in 2019.