Advocates and municipal leaders offered ideas for the potential expansion of train service in Maine at a public hearing about the 20-year plan for Amtrak’s rail service on March 19. Amtrak has been entertaining the idea of expanding its Downeaster service north to Auburn, Augusta, Bangor and Montreal and improving passage south to New York City by having the train go through Worcester, Mass. instead of Boston.

However, Patricia Quinn, the executive director for Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, stressed that current rail services would be improved before any new extensions would be undertaken.

“The primary concerns for the Downeaster are to strengthen service that we already have,” said Quinn. 

At this point, there are no concrete plans or timeframe for the expansion, according to Quinn.
Amtrak hopes to shorten the current travel time from Brunswick to Boston by improving the quality of track, specifically the track between Portland and Boston.

Currently there are only two trains that run from Brunswick to Boston, but Quinn said that her office would like to see that number increase to five.

According to Quinn, Amtrak would like to allow trains to layover in Brunswick. This would mean that a train could head to Boston around noon and then another train could return to Brunswick sometime after midnight, spending the night in Brunswick. Quinn said these added services could make it easier for Mainers to go to Boston for evening activities like Red Sox games and return home the same night.

The success of the Brunswick station has encouraged more rail expansion in Maine.
 Quinn’s office initially expected around 100 people north of Portland to ride the train each day, but the average has been closer to 150 per day.

“College students are a large and very important market for us,” said Quinn, though she acknowledged that none of the potential improvements are geared specifically towards students.
“I think it would be epic if I could go all the way up through Maine on the Amtrak because I love the Amtrak,” said Westly Garcia ’17.

Garcia added that he would also like to see more southbound trains, especially because that would make scheduling flights out of Boston much easier. 

Most of the funding for rail expansion and improvement comes from the federal government. The layover project for Brunswick is currently the only funded project and Quinn’s office is still waiting on confirmation from the Federal Railroad Administration.