Amtrak could permanently extend Maine’s Downeaster line up the coast to Rockland among 30 new routes possible under President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan, officials said.
On Wednesday, Amtrak detailed its pitch for how it would expand and improve service all across the country. Among the new routes is one that would extend Maine’s rail system, which includes stations in Wells, Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Portland, Freeport and Brunswick, up the coast to Rockland.
The Rockland station has been used intermittently over the years, with the Maine Eastern Railroad running seasonal service between Brunswick and Rockland from 2003 to 2015. In 2017, Amtrak announced it would begin seasonal service to Rockland, with stops in Bath, Wiscasset and Newcastle, but that plan was scuttled when risk assessment tests were not conducted.
Amtrak did not include proposed service extensions to Westbrook and Lewiston-Auburn. Additionally, a plan to further extend service from Brunswick through Augusta and Waterville before terminating in Bangor was also not included.
Amtrak’s Downeaster broke its ridership record in 2019, when it attracted more than 570,000 passengers. It had 574,404 passengers in 2019, up nearly 8 percent from the previous year, the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority said last year. The service’s previous record was a little less than 550,000, and it was set in 2017.
Under Biden’s infrastructure plan, Amtrak would receive $80 billion, with which the rail service said it could create more than 30 new routes and connect 160 more communities, and expand or improve rail service for nearly 20 million people.
Other major new routes include an extension from Boston to Concord, New Hampshire; and another that would connect Burlington, Vermont, to Montreal, Quebec.