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Pingree: $35 million on tap for Downeaster expansion

1:12 AM, Jan 28, 2010   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (NEWS CENTER) -- Congresswoman Chellie Pingree says $35 million will be invested in Maine to extend the Amtrak Downeaster passenger rail service from Portland to Brunswick. The funding is part of $8 billion in federal stimulus money earmarked for high-speed rail. Those funds are administered by the Department of Transportation.

In a statement issued Wednesday night, Pingree says work will begin immediately on the rail line and service to Brunswick is scheduled to begin by the end of 2012. When completed, the Downeaster will operate from Brunswick to Boston.

Pingree has been discussing the project with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, urging him to fund the rail extension.

Pingree says, "[The project] is a significant economic boost to Maine. It will put over 200 people to work improving the rail line and bring economic development to downtown train stations in communities like Freeport and Brunswick."

Patricia Quinn, Executive Director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority said, "There were many, many requests for these grants and it's really an honor that the Maine project was chosen." Quinn says if Maine taxpayers were footing the bill for the rail extension, the interest costs alone would have been $18 million. 
 
"Nearly five million people go from the Boston area to Freeport to go shopping," said Wayne Davis, Chairman of Trainriders Northeast. "That's a big market that the Downeaster can tap into."

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