Monday, May 14, 2012

Administrator Szabo celebrates opening of Downeaster station platform extension

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Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo joined in celebrating the completion of new train station platforms in Brunswick and Freeport, Maine, in preparation for the expansion of Amtrak's Downeaster line, which will begin serving both cities this fall. Administrator Szabo was joined by Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt and local business leaders.

The Downeaster line expansion was funded by a $38.3 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Federal Railroad Administration's High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program. Brunswick and Freeport have not seen passenger rail service since 1959.

The ripple effect of rail not only touches jobs associated directly with the project, but also jobs indirectly linked, including those associated with the people and products rail moves. According to the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, the work along the Downeaster corridor is creating business orders and sustaining and creating jobs at 53 companies in 20 states.

"The Downeaster expansion is creating jobs and spurring local economic development even before the trains arrive," said Administrator Szabo. "The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority delivered this project on time and on budget and when the line opens in the fall, it will increase tourism and mobility choices for residents from Boston to Brunswick."

The Recovery Act grant was augmented by additional funds from the state of Maine to cover the project costs, including the construction of the Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant passenger platforms in Freeport and Brunswick. The Downeaster project will improve 36 highway-rail grade crossings, upgrade numerous wayside signals, install signals on the Brunswick Branch and result in many other right of way improvements.

To reduce congestion on the rail corridor and increase the reliability of the Downeaster service south of Maine, FRA has also provided the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority with a $21 million grant to improve the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) owned rail line used by the Downeaster. Work is expected to begin in summer 2012.

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