Our New Vision
TrainRiders Northeast brought the Downeaster to Portland, ME in 2001 and Brunswick ME in 2012. Our New Vision: An across-the-platform Amtrak connection at Boston’s North Station, serving Worcester, Springfield, Hartford, New Haven & New York’s Penn Station (Moynihan Train Hall). Our continued success depends on your donation. Use our PayPal button to help us reach this goal. Many thanks for your continued support. Wayne Davis, Chairman
NNEPRA's Birthday - We celebrate its 26th!
- Created: 27 June 2021 27 June 2021
NNEPRA celebrates its 26th birthday today and TrainRiders was instrumental in its birth!
Working with the governor, the legislature and Chairman Wayne Davis, Counsel Bruce Sleeper, Esq. wrote the legislation that made the Downeaster possible - an extraordinary accomplishment for our grassroots organization.
Wayne and Bruce sat down for an informal Zoom chat about those early days and we share that session with you today.
NNEPRA Honors Wayne Davis!
- Created: 26 June 2021 26 June 2021
One man, one organization and one train - NNEPRA puts the accomplishments of Wayne Davis, TrainRiders/NE Chair, in the Ambassador Spotlight. Go here.
Maine Legislature Moves Closer to Studying Expanded Passenger Rail Service to Lewiston-Auburn and Bangor
- Created: 11 June 2021 11 June 2021
There are two overlapping bills in the ME Legislature this session to launch feasibility studies of expanding passenger rail service to Lewiston-Auburn and Bangor. Each designates the MEDOT to shepherd the effort with an appropriation of $180,000, some of which would be offset from Lewison-Auburn buy-ins. The DOT is to provide “an economic evaluation of commuter and passenger rail service” on the routes by next March.
TRN Opposes LD 1552 - Tantalizingly Titled: "An Act to Strengthen NNEPRA"
- Created: 22 May 2021 22 May 2021
Augusta, May 20th, 2021 - A spate of railroad-related bills was examined by the Committee on Transportation in a Thursday afternoon session and a follow-up work session the next day. The meetings were conducted via Zoom
LD1552 was titled "An Act to strengthen NNEPRA." It sounded like a positive effort by its proponents, but the devil was in the details and TRN Chairman Wayne Davis found good reasons to oppose the bill that would have weakened and inappropriately broaden NNPERA's responsibilities. Wayne Davis's quotes are from his written submission.
LD 1552: Expand the NNEPRA board by two members of the public who have expertise in passenger rail service. They would be elected by the board.
Wayne Davis in opposition: This would "eliminate the long-standing procedure whereby the Governor nominates new board members and the legislature confirms them." The current board configuration has "successfully overseen the management of the Downeaster since before its inaugural run in 2001. There is no reason to change this charging horse in midstream."
LD1552: Transfer all "state rail assets" which the DOT currently manages to NNEPRA.
Wayne Davis in opposition: These assets primarily consist of state-owned rail lines which may, in the future, be used for freight and passenger rail service. "The Maine DOT already has staffing to manage these rail assets and to transfer those to NNEPRA could easily divert the passenger rail authority from its primary mission of dealing with passenger rail issues."
LD 1552: Require the DOT to "develop a plan to allow for recreational use of the Mountain Division between Standish and Fryeburg..."
Wayne Davis in opposition: "...any resulting conversion of this line to recreational use will result in the permanent loss of that line for railroad purposes...any such conversation would constitute a major shift in the state policy which now, by statute, requires the protection and promotion of rail transportation." (A separate bill, LD 672: To Study the Feasibility of Building a Trail on the Mountain Division Rail Line [Standish to the NH line], did pass in amended form. The specifics of the amendment are yet to be reported out.)
Patricia Quinn, NNEPRA Executive Director, spoke in opposition to the bill as well as Nate Moulton of the DOT. In the work session, the committee unanimously recommended that the bill 'Ought Not to Pass' (no further action would be taken).
There were several other bills reviewed by the committee, but none more important to central Maine than LD 227.
LD 227: Resolve, to Conduct a Feasibility Study for Extending Passenger Rail Service from Brunswick through Augusta and Waterville to Bangor.
Wayne Davis: "One of Trainriders' goals as adopted in 1989, and continuing through today, included and includes the return of passenger rail service to inland Maine from Portland to Bangor via Augusta and Waterville. TrainRiders remains strongly committed to achieving this goal. To the extent the LD 227 leads to this goal, TrainRiders is in favor of its passage."
However, the Covid pandemic has "immensely decreased ridership on passenger trains throughout the country and the world, including, unfortunately, our Downeaster. Right now, this requires a clear focus on maintaining and reinvigorating current service rather than expanding that service to new areas of the state...Accordingly, TrainRiders asks this Committee to hold over consideration of this bill into the next regular legislative session when both the ridership habits of rail passengers and the economic resources available to satisfy those habits will be clearer."
LD227 was initially reported on the state website as 'Tabled' until the next legislative session, however, they have now corrected the error to 'Ought to Pass as Amended' - the specifics of the amendment are still under review.
There was an avalanche of eight rail bills before the Transportation Committee which were efficiently dealt with over a two-day period. The various bills and public comments can be viewed on the committee's web portal under 'All Committee Papers.'
Happy 50th Birthday Amtrak!
- Created: 01 May 2021 01 May 2021
On this date in 1971, the first Amtrak passenger train left New York City for Philadelphia. A national network eventually grew out of that beginning. The state-sponsored Amtrak services emerged, which included the Maine Downeaster in December of 2001. The Downeaster was the result of TrainRiders/Northeast's grass-routes advocacy.
Amtrak funding has been on a rollercoaster ride since its beginning - strong funding and then cutbacks. Today, under the administration of President Joe Biden, the proposals for new funding and new routes raise hopes of a new 'golden age' of passenger rail service in the US.
President Biden regularly commuted from his home in Wilmington, DE. to Capitol Hill for 30 years. His $2 Trillion 'American Jobs Plan,' now headed to Congress, allocates $80 Billion for passenger and freight rail. Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn stated that if the proposed funding is approved, "Amtrak would be able to bring the NEC to a state of good repair and improve trip times" as well as avoid "devastating consequences for our transportation network."
The president's remarks can be seen here (starting at 1:00:17) along with selected remarks from Chairman Wayne Davis. (go to 1:18:03 ).
Watch Chairman Davis's full remarks for the Amtrak 50th!
Here's to another 50 years!