FREEPORT — Platform construction is underway in advance of Amtrak Downeaster rail service, which is expected to begin in November 2012.
Cement for the train platform is being poured and discussions regarding the location of a start-up train station are in progress.
The platform is being built behind Petrillo’s restaurant, near the corner of Mill and Depot streets.
Sande Updegraph, executive director of the Freeport Economic Development Corp. and member of the Freeport Train Committee, said the center portion of the 400-foot platform will be raised about three or four feet off the ground, will have a roof and a heated floor to melt ice and snow. The platform on both ends of the raised portion will be at ground level.
The entire platform is expected to be finished by next month, she said.
Jim Russell of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, the operations manager of the Brunswick and Freeport platform construction, said the high platform will be handicapped-accessible, with a ramp from the parking lot to the train. Passengers can also board the train from the ground level, using stairs that flip down from the train, he said.
In addition to the platform, Updegraph said the hose tower where FreeportUSA information center and the public restrooms are located could be a potential spot for a train station.
“We are working with the architect and L.L. Bean to determine the feasibility of reconfiguring the first floor to make a train station,” she said. “But nothing is formal at this time.”
Updegraph said the first floor of the hose tower, about 500 square feet, could be gutted, cleaned and transformed into a waiting area. There would be handicap accessible bathrooms, benches, a ticketing machine and magazine racks.
“We would keep it like that for a couple of years to see how much traffic the train brings,” she said. “If (the traffic) is heavy, then the town and a private developer could discuss building a bigger station.”
The arrival of the train also means a safety outreach program will be necessary, Updegraph said.
There will be an educational outreach program for the public, especially targeting school students after the beginning of the year, she said.
“With six one way trips a day, and the potential for an increase in train traffic as the program grows, we need to get the word about about the dangers of walking along the tracks,” Updegraph said. “People who use the tracks now for recreational purposes – dog walkers, those who ride ATVs and especially those who listen to music – need to know how illegal and dangerous it is to be on the tracks.”
The train committee will meet at the end of October for another update on the station and platform.
Workers place the wet concrete for the lower portion of the 400-foot platform that will provide access to the Amtrak Downeaster at the end of Mill Street in Freeport. Service is scheduled to begin in about a year.
This will be the raised portion of the Freeport train platform. It will be covered and have a heated floor to help keep snow and ice from accumulating.