Falmouth-Cumberland siding project may lead to more Downeaster trains

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FALMOUTH — A nearly $9.4 million railroad track project that would allow the addition of two passenger-train round trips daily between Brunswick and Boston is slated to begin in 2017.

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority presented plans to the Town Council Monday night for the 4-mile construction project that would extend from Field Road in Falmouth to just past Greely Road in Cumberland.

The proposal is also known as the Royal Junction Siding project.

Patricia Quinn, executive director of NNEPRA – the quasi-governmental agency that manages the Amtrak Downeaster – said the new track will mean more trips from Brunswick to Boston by allowing trains to pass each other in opposite directions and letting faster passenger trains pass slower freight trains.

The Downeaster operates five round trips from Portland to Boston each day; there are three round trips from Brunswick to Boston daily, Quinn said. The track north of Portland is mostly single, which limits service.

“There are a lot of efficiencies to be gained (from the siding project),” Quinn said.

The track will be built within Pan Am Railways’ right-of-way. According to Quinn, the project is fully funded, with 80 percent financed by the federal govenment and the remainder coming from state sources. Since the tracks are Pan Am property, they can be used by both freight and passenger trains.

The new track would affect crossings at Woodville Road in Falmouth, and Route 9 and Muirfield, Tuttle and Greely roads in Cumberland. There will be no additional stations or stops, however.

In response to questions, Quinn said NNEPRA does not have purview over the impact on quiet zones from added train trips. Falmouth enacted train quiet zones in 2015; Cumberland did not enact quiet zones after discussing the possibility in 2011.

Also when asked if more than five round trips would be added, Quinn said the plan “for the foreseeable future” is to remain at five.

Jim Russell, special projects manager at NNEPRA, said the plan is to begin construction in the spring, and no trees would be cleared outside of Pan Am property. There will also be signal upgrades to crossing signs in the areas, but Russell said these were largely computerized upgrades that “probably won’t be noticed by passing traffic.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority will begin building a second track in Falmouth and Cumberland to increase the number of round trips between Brunswick and Boston.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.