June, 2016 NNEPRA Board Meeting

The NNEPRA Board Meeting was held on Monday, June 27th.

Ridership: Executive Director Patricia Quinn reported on the latest performance numbers. The May, 2106 ridership was 38,754 as compared to 22,722 in May of 2015 (Need we mention that May, 2015 was a disastrous 30 days due to a tie-replacement project gone awry). However, the actuals missed the projected ridership by a considerable degree.

Revenue: May, 2016 revenue came in at $663, 377 as compared to $393,556 in May of 2015. Still, this past month's revenue fell 11% below target.

OTP: On Time Performance was 81% as opposed to 0% (!) in May of 2015.

CSI: The overall Customer Satisfaction Index for the Downeaster was 91 - Amtrak checked in at 88.

Brunswick Layover Facility: Special Projects Manager Jim Russell reported, "It's on schedule and on budget with 75% of the track work completed."

Royal Junction Siding: Funding has been acquired. This siding will ultimately allow all Downeaster trains to start and end in Brunswick.

Maine DOT's Passenger Rail Advisory Council Hears TrainRiders/NE's Proposal for Direct Service from Maine to NYC

WaynePRACChairman Wayne Davis and Vice Chair Andy Hyland briefed the DOT's Passenger Rail Advisory Council yesterday in Augusta on TRN's vision of direct service from Maine to New York City. The Downeaster would go as far as Worcester - connecting passengers to existing Amtrak service there. The proposal would require the upgrade of existing tracks from Lowell to Worcester. From Worcester, passengers would continue on to Springfield, Hartford, New Haven and then NYC.

June NNEPRA Board Meeting

"There's light at the end of the tunnel!"

nnepra logoToday's NNEPRA Board meeting still reported dismal ridership numbers for May, ridership was down some 15,000 and 147 trains were cancelled. That having been said, some 22,000 ties have been replaced with another 3,300 needed to finish the job. The surfacing crews are beyond Dover on their way to Wells. Next week, Amtrak hopes to be able to schedule mid-day trains between Wells and Boston, using a shuttle bus between Portland and Wells.

Next step on the Brunswick Layover Facility now that the DEP Commissioner has said "yes" to construction? NNEPRA needs to re-examine the costs with the construction company since the figures are two years old. The front-end plugin power equipment should be ready to go at the Brunswick layover property by August 1st. This will help to reduce engine idling.

DEP Commissioner Grants Permit to Allow NNEPRA to Proceed with Brunswick Layover Facility!!!

delayoverCommissioner Patricia Aho signed the approval letter to NNEPRA today which grants the rail authority its much sought after and frequently delayed Storm Water Runoff permit. There is, as expected, a list of "Special Conditions" that must be met. None seems to be excessively burdensome.

DEP Gives Tentative Approval to Construction of the Brunswick Layover Facility

Good news from the DEP. The storm water runoff application requested by NNEPRA has been tentatively approved, thus going a long way toward eliminating the last environmental obstacle to the construction of the Brunswick Layover Facility. While there are more than a dozen conditions attached to the draft decision, not one appears to be a 'deal breaker' for NNEPRA. The final decision is expected to be announced on June 17th.  More in the Forecaster: 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - Today's NNEPRA Board Meeting

The Downeaster has had more than a decade of uninterrupted, successful growth. However, these past few months have reminded NNEPRA that setbacks come with heavy-handed results. Let's get the 'ugly' out of the way first.

The Ugly

The recent spate of slow orders, the PanAm right-of-way rehabilitation of a road-bed that was pummeled by the harsh winter AND the ongoing construction of the Haverhill bridge finally showed up in the numbers this month. April's On Time Performance registered 35.6% with no train making it into the 80% category. May's OTP was 8%!

The FRA Gives NNEPRA a Green Light to Proceed with the Brunswick Layover Facility

BLFThe Federal Railroad Agency, which has jurisdiction over U.S. railroad activities, issued its long-awaited review of the Brunswick Layover Facility's Environmental Assessment provided to the agency by NNEPRA. The FRA issued a FONSI (A Finding of No Significant Impact) which clears the way for construction to begin on the BLF. It will house three train sets just 0.6 miles from the Brunswick Station.

TrainRiders/Northeast May Newsletter

Our May newsletter was recently sent to our membership.


It features the latest Downeaster FY 2014 data, a tribute to Benjamin Kirkland (one of TRN's original and deeply dedicated supporters), a column on the delaying tactics of the West Brunswick Neighborhood Coalition over the proposed Downeaster Layover Facility, and recommendations from Chairman Wayne Davis how best to improve and grow the Downeaster service. Go here for these stories and more

In addition to the newsletter, the TrainRiders/NE Board sent a special request letter to all of our many supporters. We share this with you hoping it will encourage your further support.

Transportation Bill Compromise Maintains US Support for the Downeaster Thanks to Effort of Senator Snowe

Train riders from Portland to Boston can exhale a sigh of relief as the 27-month compromise transportation bill has gone to the president for his signature. Successful last minute efforts by Senator Olympia Snowe sealed the deal keeping federal funds flowing to the Downeaster. Here is a portion of Sen. Snowe's press release:

Provision to Preserve Downeaster Funding
Included in Final Highway Bill
Legislation also includes Snowe measure regarding veterans’ commercial drivers licenses

A modified version of a measure introduced by U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) to preserve funding for operation of the Downeaster rail service today passed the Senate as part of the final compromise Highway Bill package.

Compromise Transportation Bill Leaves NARP Disappointed

narplogoThe House & Senate agreed Wednesday night on a compromise 27-month extension of the Surface Transportation Bill. NARP's analysis concluded: "...for train passengers, this unveiling will undoubtedly leave them with a resounding sense of disappointment."

The full report is available on the NARP site.

NNEPRA Board Meeting - June, 2012

The NNEPRA Board met this week in Portland where Executive Director Patricia Quinn reported continued growth in Downeaster ridership and revenue for May and the fiscal year to date:


NARP Amtrak Alert!

 House to vote on anti-passenger rail amendments today!

June 27, 201

Last chance to speak up for trains!

Votes on amendments to the transportation/housing appropriations bill could come as early as today at 4:00 PM Eastern. In an unusual move, the House is operating under an “open rule,” which makes it very hard to know for sure what amendments will be offered.  However, NARP has identified two distinct possibilities passengers should should be concerned about:

Elimination of $500 million from Amtrak capital—As reported in yesterday's email, it appears there will be an amendment that would eliminate a $500 million bridge and tunnel grant within the Amtrak capital program.  That money is vital—not only for capital, but for the potential to flex $80 million of it over to Amtrak operations.

Rep. Jeff Flake Targets Amtrak's Food Service—NARP just learned this morning about a “no-money-for-food-service” amendment from Representative Flake (R-AZ).

This issue was already address by Amtrak’s Bill Crosbie in his June 9, 2005, prepared testimony before the Railroads Subcommittee: “Amtrak’s food and beverage service is a fundamental part of the service that we offer on the majority of the trains that we operate on a daily basis. Its primary purpose is to enhance ticket sales and ridership, not serve as a profit center.”  Translation: it's hard to make money on food when your clientele is limited to people on a single train, but no food service would mean huge loss in ridership.

With so little time left, it's important that they hear from America's passengers.  So call your Representative now, and tell them to "vote against amendments that would reduce Amtrak funding or limit its ability to provide food service" (if a the staff person is not available to speak to you, please leave a concise message, since the vote likely will come before your call is returned).

Senate and House negotiators close to deal on surface transportation bill

It appears that a deal has been reached between House and Senate conferees on a multi-year transportation reauthorization.  While details are still fuzzy, if the rail provisions are anything like what was contained in the Senate version, this is good news for trains.  An extended authorization will clear the way for investment in transportation infrastructure, putting Americans back to work in time for the summer construction season.

NARP will keep you updated as events unfold.


NARP Recounts TrainRiders/NE's 12 Year Marathon to Bring Amtrak Downeaster to Maine

narpwayneThe June edition of the NARP Newsletter details the extraordinary 12-year-effort of Wayne Davis and his TrainRiders organization to bring Amtrak passenger service to Maine. NARP states that chairman and founder Wayne Davis "set a gold standard for effective citizen action."

The article details how untiring work in communities along the line and in Augusta resulted in a nickname for the Downeaster that continues to be proudly used today:  "America's Favorite Train."

The full article can be viewed here.

FRA Highlights Downeaster's Expanding Economic Impact

szaboFederal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo recently analyzed the economic benefits of the Downeaster's continued growth - an estimated $7.2 billion in economic activity through 2030.

Citing an independent analysis, Mr. Szabo said the new construction along the corridor in Maine, particuarly from Portland to Freeport and Brunswick, can create 18,000 new jobs. More on this upbeat assessment at the NARP website.

NNEPRA Board Meeting - June, 2011


Great news!  As NNEPRA's fiscal year comes to an end later this month, the Downeaster is already celebrating record-breaking ridership and revenue!

From Executive Director, Patricia Quinn:

  • FY 2011 YTD - 464,287 riders vs. 429,839 in FY '10 YTD
  • FY 2011 YRD - $6,474,808 in revenue vs. $6,054,496 in FY '10 YTD
  • May, 2011 - 42,543 riders vs 38,025 in May of '10, an 11% increase
  • May, 2011 - On Time Performance at 91%

The Public Comment time was moved to the top of the agenda in deference to three citizens from Brunswick. They were representing residents who oppose the proposed location of the Downeaster Maintenance Facility in the vicinity of their neighborhood.

Brunswick Forum Hears Objections to Proposed Downeaster Maintenance Facility

The proposed location of the Downeaster maintenance facility in Brunswick was the subject of a public forum last night. The MDOT-sponsored session heard from residents who, though welcoming the arrival of Downeaster service next fall, expressed deep concerns about the location of the work area in their neighborhood. They cited expected noise, light and air pollution as primary concerns.

NNEPRA's Excecutive Director Patricia Quinn informed residents that other sites will be examined before a final decision is made.

The 40,000 square foot shed will house up to three trainsets when service to Freeport and Brunswick commences in the fall of 2012.

A full article at the Press Herald's website.

NH Members - Contact Your Senators in Concord

nhWe encourage TRN NH members to contact their Senators to sustain Gov. Lynch's veto of HB 218 which would derail (kill) the NH Rail Transit Authority.

Content suggestions from several of members include these points:

  • Sustaining the governor's veto of HB 218 demonstrates NH’s continued commitment to creative approaches to rail improvement
  • The NHRTA will be critical in working on bipartisan efforts at the national level to enhance public-private partnerships in rail
  • Our neighboring states have successful authorities
  • The success of the Downeaster is managed by Maine’s rail authority (NNEPRA)

You can go to the NH Senate's website for postal/email addresses along with phone numbers.

Privatize Amtrak? CEO Boardman Responds

boardmancnbcCEO Joseph Boardman appeared on CNBC’s "Keeping America Great with Brian Mooar" this past week. Mooar gave him the usual grilling about losing money (though he said he’s a frequent Acela rider), but Boardman was very cordial and stood his ground, calmly pointing out where Mooar had his facts wrong. You can watch the 6-minute video, and read a transcript, at http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000028117 {jcomments on}

Updated NH Rail Plan Draft


The NH DOT released an update to its comprehensive rail plan. As Steve Pesci noted in a comment, it is still in draft form.

It addresses both freight and passenger rail needs. The Lynch administration has a forward-looking vision of how rail can spur economic development for businesses and ease commuter and visitor travel in the state..

The latest draft is available here.

Gov. Lynch's Veto Message

Governor Lynch's Veto Message Regarding HB 218

By the authority vested in me, pursuant to part II, Article 44 of the New Hampshire Constitution, on June 15, 2011, I vetoed HB 218, relative to the New Hampshire rail transit authority.

I am vetoing this legislation because business leaders, particularly in Nashua and Manchester, has clearly said that this bill will hurt their efforts to grow their businesses, to create jobs and to attract new companies to New Hampshire.

The New Hampshire business community has made a clear statement that it sees rail, in the words of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, as "a proven economic catalyst that will spur economic development and create jobs." Several major companies have made clear that they believe rail will improve their ability to attract workers, access their markets, attract additional customers and grow their businesses in New Hampshire. In addition, the Manchester and Nashua chambers of commerce both believe that developing the state's rail infrastructure will assist their efforts to attract new businesses and jobs to the state. That is one reason both chambers have asked me to veto this legislation. The Merrimack Town Council, the Bedford Town Council, and the Nashua Board of Aldermen have also passed resolutions expressing support for expanded rail service and the benefits it would bring to their communities.

The support of the business community is validated by an independent study that concluded that the development of rail in the capital corridor could result in more than $2.4 billion in new business sales and nearly 1,000 new jobs created and sustained in New Hampshire in the first twenty years of operation.

HB 218 makes substantial changes to New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority that will reduce its ability to fully consider all transit options for the state. New Hampshire businesses banded together to raise $120,000 to fund the Rail Authority's grant application without any state funds because they believe a full consideration of rail is important to New Hampshire's economic future. Going back on our commitment to the businesses who contributed funds to pay for grant applications sends the wrong signal to the private sector about state government's willingness to stand by its commitments. We should see the study through to its conclusion with a fully functioning Rail Authority so that we can make informed policy choices about the best way forward for our state.

Concerns about specific provisions in the Rail Authority statute could have been addressed through much more narrowly drafted language that would leave intact important functions of the rail authority. As currently written, this legislation takes away the rail authority's ability to enter into contracts with partner organizations, to accept gifts and to work with the private sector on economic development projects adjacent to potential rail sites.

Given the strong concerns among New Hampshire business leaders that this legislation will jeopardize their efforts to grow their businesses and create new jobs, I am vetoing House Bill 218.

Gov Lynch Vetos Bill to Eliminate NH Transit Authority

lynchThe governor of NH, John Lynch, has vetoed a bill that would have shut down the NH Transit Authority. Although both houses of the state legislature approved the bill, a "No" from the governor stopped this effort in its tracks.

The NH Transit Authority cost the state nothing and was an all-volunteer organization. New Hampshire had received a federal grant to study passenger rail between Boston and Concord serving Nashua, Merrimack, Manchester and Concord.

TrainRiders/NE opposed the legislation as had many public interest groups in New Hampshire. Article from the Boston Globe.

Gov. Lynch's Veto Message

NARP Action Alert

From NARP:

The appropriations process determines how much money federal programs will get in Fiscal 2012, which starts October 1, 2011. Although the first step in the formal House appropriations process is not expected until mid-July, it seems certain that the subcommittee will impose a crushing funding reduction on Amtrak, possibly zeroing out the national network and limiting capital funding to the bare minimum needed to avoid bankruptcy.

Go here to take action on their alert.

Construction Begins on Brunswick Platform

The expansion to Freeport and Brunswick continues apace with crews beginning the construction of the Brunswick platform (Freeport's will follow upon the completion of the Brunswick project). Both concrete platforms will be 400 feet long and cost a total $1.57 million, the cost of which is part of the overall FRA grant to NNEPRA for the Brunswick expansion.

The full story can be read at the Times Record website.

Train Host Appreciation Day

Host Appreciation DaySome 35 active Train Hosts gathered at DiMillo's Restaurant in Portland to celebrate Train Host Appreciation Day. Hosts from as far away as Boston were in attendance.

The gathering heard from chairman Wayne Davis about the successes of the program and the continued goal of lending an informative, helping hand to Downeaster riders.

"Train to Maine Day" and New Passenger Video


Wednesday was "Train to Maine Day" at North Station. Natalie & Brian from NNEPRA led a group (including our own board member Bob Rodman) that engaged the folks at the station - passing out beach balls, t-shirts, timetables and other baubles to let folks know Maine was just a Downeaster ride away. NNEPRA has an impressive ad campaign underway in our 'southern' station cities.

NNEPRA also debuted a new video entitled, "I ride the Amtrak Downeaster." It was produced by this site's webmaster. Enjoy it by going here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6EiE-dP8QU

Exeter Receives Grant to Construct Transportaton Center

exeterIt's a big step forward for Exeter - the only Downeaster stop in New Hampshire without a station building.

The Exeter Station Committee, headed by TrainRiders/NE board member Bob Hall, worked with the state DOT and received a $282,240 grant to convert the old baggage building into a new transportation center.

Congratulations to Bob, the committee and the NHDOT! More in Seacoastonline.

Transportation Bond Issue Passes

Maine voters approved Question 3, the Transportation Bond Issue, by a 58-42 margin. This is good news for maintaining freight rail service and its jobs in Northern Maine. The issue read as follows:

"Do you favor a $47,800,000 bond issue to create jobs in Maine through improvements to highways, railroads and marine facilities, including port and harbor structures, and specifying the allocation of $4,000,000 of the transportation bond approved by voters in November 2009 to be used for capital rail purposes?"

More details at the Portland Press Herald website.

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