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- Published on Monday, 06 October 2008 00:42
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TrainRiders/Northeast was formed in 1989 as a non-profit, volunteer organization dedicated to bring modern and efficient passenger rail service to Northern New England.
We have accomplished much - the Downeaster service is our pride and joy - but permanent funding needs your support and there are other cities that want passenger rail service.
Won't you join our efforts?
Wayne Davis, Chairman of the Board
The history of getting the Downeaster 'on track' was neither quick nor easy. There were many obstacles that needed to be overcome. TrainRiders' role in this lengthy process was documented, in part, in a video that was presented at our 20th Anniversary Annual Meeting, May 13, 2008. Our guest speaker was former Maine Senator George Mitchell. Enjoy this look at the past.
In 1989 a group of citizens got together to talk about a return of passenger rail to Maine. The effort led to the creation of the grassroots organization of TrainRiders/Northeast (TRN).
The group, which included interested people from as far away as Bangor in Maine and several coastal New Hampshire towns, explored the feasibility of Amtrak’s extending the Northeast Corridor passenger trains from Boston through New Hampshire to Portland, Maine. That was called a first step toward expanding service to other areas of northern New England. We felt then, as now, that implementation of passenger rail should be undertaken on a regional and multi-state basis.
TRN believes that only a strong membership association can convince local and federal governments to take a fresh look at passenger trains. Our purpose is to educate the public about the benefits of rail and the necessity of creating a new transportation vision. We believe that the time has come to move away from our dependence on just two modes of transportation, highways and airways, and move toward a more balanced system so that airways, highways and railways are used appropriately.
We work with elected officials at the local, state and federal levels of government, consumers, rail companies and unions for a coordinated approach to achieving shared goals.
1. THE MAINTENANCE OF PASSENGER RAIL SERVICE TO MAINE from Boston via Haverhill, MA; Exeter, Durham and Dover, NH; Wells, Saco/Biddeford and Old Orchard Beach to Portland, Maine.
2. THE RETURN OF PASSENGER RAIL SERVICE TO THE MAINE COAST from Portland to Rockland via Freeport, Brunswick, Bath and Wiscasset.
3. THE RETURN OF PASSENGER RAIL SERVICE TO INLAND MAINE from Portland to Bangor via Lewiston/Auburn and Waterville, and via Brunswick, Augusta and Waterville.
4. THE INTRODUCTION OR RETURN OF PASSENGER RAIL SERVICE TO OTHER COMMUTER, TOURIST OR SCENIC AREAS throughout Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and the Canadian provinces.
5. THE UPGRADING AND IMPROVEMENT OF THE RAIL SYSTEM IN GENERAL to accommodate modern and efficient service for both passengers and freight throughout northern New England.
- To establish and maintain a strong citizens' organization to promote the above goals and ensure that they are achieved.
- To educate and be the primary resource for the public on the societal, environmental and economic benefits of passenger rail service and to build public support for its development and operation through outreach and public comment.
- To support more comprehensive transportation planning which includes passenger rail service as an essential part of our transportation system.
- To encourage the states of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont to undertake, in coordination with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, comprehensive studies of the benefits, costs and strategies required to re-establish passenger rail service.
- To encourage and facilitate cooperation and coordinated action among all parties who will need to be involved in the this process, including governmental agencies, railroads, unions, regional planning groups, current and future rail users and the general public.
TrainRiders/Northeast is a grassroots citizens organization founded in 1989 to explore the feasibility of having Amtrak extend the Northeast Corridor passenger trains from Boston through New Hampshire to Portland, Maine as a first step to expanding passenger rail service to other areas of New England. We feel that planning for an implementation of passenger rail service must be undertaken on a regional and multi-state basis.
TrainRiders believes that only a strong membership association can convince local and federal governments to take a fresh look at passenger trains. Our purpose is to educate the public about the benefits of passenger trains and the necessity of creating a new transportation vision. We believe that the time has come to move away from our dependence on just two modes of transportation, namely highway and airways, and to move toward a more balance transportation systems which integrates roads, airports and rail so that each is used appropriately at the least public cost.
March: Organized with 21 members. Quickly rose to more than 1,300 members.
At TNE’s urging and with the cooperation of the MAINE DOT, the MAINE LEGISLATURE orders passenger ridership study and petitions the WHITE HOUSE for support.
TNE initiates meeting with the Maine DOT and Amtrak’s president and senior management.
Maine congressional delegation requests Amtrak conduct study to determine cost of service. Estimate is approximately $50 million - $30 million for right-of-way improvements and $20 million for equipment. This is determined to be feasible by AMTRAK and the URBAN MASS TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION.
1990 - 1991
TrainRiders/Northeast and RailVision committee initiate legislative bill by collecting nearly 90,000 voter signatures.
TNE testifies before Congress seeking federal funding for additional 403-B subsidized passenger train service.
July 14: First citizen-initiated bill to be adopted by Maine Legislature in the history of the state. Maine DOT endorses bill, Legislature adopts it, and the governor signs "PASSENGER RAIL SERVICE ACT" into law.
July, August, and September: MAINE DOT and TNE seek funding at federal level. Trips to Washington made with Maine DOT officials to meet with heads of Urban Mass Transit Administration (pre-federal transit administration), Federal Railroad Administration and AMTRAK.
September: US Congress authorizes additional funds for the Amtrak 403-B Program.
November: Amtrak commits to supply $20 million worth of equipment for the service at no cost to the State of Maine
May: TNE organizes national conference, BUILDING REGIONAL RAIL, A KEY TO ECONOMIC RECOVERY, at the New England Center at the Univ of New Hampshire. US Senate majority leader George Mitchell opens conference. Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts DOT officials participate with attendees from all over the country. This is first intercity passenger rail conference in memory held in New England.
June: Maine citizens approve $5.4 million rail bond, $3 million of which is state match for federal funds, with remainder for improvement to state-owned rail lines.
Fall: TNE informative efforts prompt FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION to award $60,000 grant to Maine DOT for design work for an intermodal terminal in Portland.
October: Bipartisan federal efforts result in congressional appropriations of $25.5 million for right-of-way improvements.
Maine DOT selects design engineering team to conduct engineering and environmental assessments. Work completed in May.
June: TNE organizes a second conference at the New England Center. Speakers and attendees from Europe, Asia, the US and Canada participate in CONNECTIONS, THE CHALLENGE OF MULTIMODAL TRANSPORTATION. The Congressional Commission on Intermodal Transportation holds its first formal meeting at the conference as part of proceedings. Press calls conference "World class event."
September: TNE, Maine Dot and the Coalition of Northeastern Governors (CONEG) sponsor a one-day visit of the German Intercity Express, called THE ICE TRAIN, to Portland as the last stop on a national tour.
October: Maine DOT submits Section 3 Grant application to FTA for project implementation.
October: Congressional appropriations of $9.5 million for right-of-way improvements.
13C labor negotiations between Maine DOT and Railway Labor Executives’ Association begin in January. Final draft agreement distributed to MAINE ATTORNEY GENERAL’S office and US DEPT OF LABOR for review and approval in October: TNE sponsors meeting of Washington-based National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) in Portland. Special Amtrak train, THE TALGO, operates between Boston, Exeter, Dover and Portland for the three-day event.
October: Congressional appropriations of $3.6 million for right-of-way improvements. TOTAL CONGRESSIONAL APPROPRIATION IS NOW $38.6 million.
$3.6 million for right-of-way improvements.
TOTAL APPROPRIATION amounts to $38.6 million for right-of-way improvements.
January: A new Maine Legislature, new governor Angus King, and new Commissioner of Transportation John Melrose require formation of a passenger rail authority to be responsible for signing final documents authorizing new rail service.
Fall: TNE works with state Chamber of Commerce and industry, Maine DOT, business leaders and others from January to August 1995 to convince the Maine Legislature to create the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA).
January - Fall: Negotiations between AMTRAK, GUILFORD TRANSPORTATION and NNEPRA begin in earnest. TNE attempts to assist in resolving areas of conflict among the participants as negotiations fail.
Fall: TNE meets with Maine’s Governor King, state and federal officials and Amtrak’s president and chief management to request that the entire list of differences be submitted to the FEDERAL SURFACE TRANSPORTATION BOARD (STB) in Washington for settlement.
It takes all parties until MARCH to prepare documents for the critical submission requested in fall of 1996. The date of closure is AUGUST 26, 1997.
April: Meanwhile, Congress creates multi-billion dollar capital fund for Amtrak which entitles Maine to an additional $23 million to be used to provide 80 MPH service and to extend service to FREEPORT and BRUNSWICK. Maine receives first payment of $11.6 million with additional equal payment due in 1999.
May 29: STB ruling makes it possible for Amtrak, the State of Maine and Guilford Transportation to begin limited right-of-way improvements during summer and autumn. Differences of opinion among the parties as to rail WEIGHT (115 lb vs 132 lb) and train SPEED (60 MPH vs 80 MPH) delay project until December.
December: All parties agree the speed will be 80 MPH and the rail weight issue submitted to the STB for resolution without delaying the project startup.
November: TNE, together with the Conservation Law Foundation, American Skiing Company, and the Vermont Natural Resources Council sponsor a rail conference at the New England Center at the University of NH. A 21st CENTURY NEW ENGLAND RAIL SYSTEM: A BLUEPRINT FOR ACTION. Conference opened by governor of NH draws national speakers to participate with federal and state officials from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts.
January: TNE and NNEPRA sponsor a symbolic ground-breaking with participation of Guilford Transportation, Amtrak, federal, state and local officials.
June: TNE co-sponsors a multi-state rail summit meeting of state and federal officials as a follow-up to the rail conference of the previous November, which was supposed to have resulted in a new multi-state regional approach to passenger rail service throughout northern New England. This has not happened.
October: STB issues decision stating that the line is "adequate for safe operation of trains at speeds of up to 79 MPH."
During the building season over two hundred thousand (200,000) tons of new ballast and thousands of new rail ties are installed. New rail is installed from the Massachusetts/NH state line to South Portland, with welding completed to Old Orchard Beach. Final welding is completed in spring of 2001. All 23 public grade crossings are rehabilitated and equipped with gates, lights and bells.
February: Despite previous FEDERAL STB RULING that the line can accommodate 79 MPH SPEEDS, GUILFORD again announces its refusal to permit passenger train speeds greater than 59 MPH and denies Amtrak access to the line to conduct previously ordered track modulus testing.
March: TNE meets with MAINE’S GOVERNOR KING and top DOT and NNEPRA members to seek resolution to the seemingly endless obstacles.
March: Amtrak petitions the STB to settle the speed issue, requesting an expedited ruling.
April: TNE intervenes to assist in Amtrak’s Surface Transportation Board proceeding, also requesting an expedited ruling.
June: STB issues decision stating Amtrak must be granted access to Guilford’s rail line to perform a rail modulus test. Crossing upgrades signal improvements and cleanup procedures continue through the summer and fall.
October: Gov King holds joint press conference with TNE, the Maine DOT, NNEPRA and Guilford Transportation to announce the date of the INAUGURAL RUN ON DECEMBER 14.
December 14: Gov Angus King, TNE chairman Wayne Davis, and NNEPRA director Michael Murray board the ceremonial train at Boston’s North Station. TNE board members as well as both the president and executive director of NARP, Sen. Olympia Snowe, Sen. Susan Collins, Rep Tom Allen, Rep John Baldacci and other dignitaries and guests from all over the United States and Canada are also on board.
Amtrak’s new DOWNEASTER looks magnificent with its gleaming cars and sparkling windows. The colorful red, white and blue locomotive carries the new logo THE DOWNEASTER on its sides and DOWNEASTER; OPERATED BY AMTRAK across the front.
After pulling out of Boston to the rousing cheers and applause of over 400 invited passengers and, as it approaches all stations - Haverhill, Exeter, Durham, Dover, Wells, Saco and Old Orchard Beach - the pealing of church bells and playing of live music on platforms, the DOWNEASTER arrives in Portland. Spirits are high and even emotional on all platforms as the DOWNEASTER brings memories of a treasured rail transportation system, future aspirations, and the prospect of economic benefits to every community both on and beyond the rail line. The day’s events culminate in a huge and colorful reception at Portland’s Exposition Building.
December 15: At 6:05 AM the first scheduled passenger train for the general public pulls out of Portland’s new Transportation Center for Boston.
Since that day, communities all along the line have reported benefits and endorsed the success of the DOWNEASTER. Supporting Amtrak’s effort to provide superior service, they have shown their commitment by undertaking trackside improvements of stations, platforms, parking and other facilities to capitalize on economic and transportation benefits brought by the train.
Early success has augmented efforts to expand DOWNEASTER passenger service beyond Portland and throughout northern New England.
The goals and Objectives, above, adopted by TNE nearly 20 years ago have become even more significant. Not only has the consequence of sprawl been proven unacceptable and the strain on air travel excessive, the changing global political and environmental climate and the impact of 9/11 show the importance of fulfilling these goals and objectives as quickly as possible.
Please join us in our efforts to create a regional rail system. Only you can make it all happen.
Since 2001, the DOWNEASTER has run more than 21,000 trains, carried nearly 3 million passengers, traveled 190 million passenger miles, and generated more than $31.6 million in ticket revenue. Some call it "America's favorite train”, quite often ranking first in the nation for overall customer service and having one of the best on-time performance records in the country. On August 17, 2007, a fifth round trip was added. In FY2008, ending on September 30th, its ridership and revenue growth ranked among the highest of any Amtrak service in the country with a 32% increase in ridership and a 33% revenue increase, with further increases continuing in 2009. It is also one of the best of its peer services in recovering its operational expenses.
The DOWNEASTER has local, regional and national appeal. 57% of all riders live in Maine, and a recent survey noted passengers from 175 Maine towns/cities, representing every county in Maine, in addition to passengers from 25 other states and 6 foreign countries! More than 12,000 Maine school children have taken the DOWNEASTER to Boston for field trips.
The DOWNEASTER is an economic development tool. 54 people are directly employed by the Downeaster generating approximately $2m in wages for Maine residents. Amtrak spends over $2m in Maine on DOWNEASTER -related goods and services. A 2004 study showed that the DOWNEASTER contributed more than $15m in spending to the Maine economy. The DOWNEASTER has been a catalyst for the development of hundreds of housing units and a luxury hotel in old orchard beach and a nearly $100m proposal to develop Saco island.
For six years, Maine has enjoyed federal operating assistance for the DOWNEASTER. That assistance, which was supposed to end on September 30, 2009 and be replaced by a new funding source, has been extended several times and now expires in December of 2010.
In addition, the DOWNEASTER service extension to Freeport and Brunswick promised for 2003 by state officials has yet to happen. The massive investment made in rebuilding the Rockland line to handle 60mph trains will be wasted unless the missing piece between Portland and Brunswick is completed soon. Each year's delay costs multiple millions in lost economic development, with major development projects in process in both Brunswick and Freeport which expected passenger train service by 2010 as part of their plans. However, we are now told that a recent FRA grant of $35M should allow the ROW improvements to begin in July of 2010 with service operational by 2012.
TNE continues to work to ensure that the DOWNEASTER remains as an economic catalyst for the region. A fifth round trip has been added and schedules improved to provide better service to the Northeast. A sixth round trip could be next - and service to Freeport and Brunswick through Yarmouth Junction will make it possible to serve not only Brunswick and Rockland, but western Maine, through Pownal, Auburn/Lewiston, South Paris, and Bethel, but also Gorham and Berlin, New Hampshire, Vermont and Montréal, as well as Augusta and points north.
Help us to accomplish our remaining goals by joining TNE today and contributing to our efforts.