Letter: Column understates cost of rail construction

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Tony Donovan’s Dec. 7 op-ed on light rail cost per mile versus highway cost miles is misleading. He states that to build a mile of light (passenger) rail costs the same as a mile of highway. Nothing could be further from the truth. A few zeroes are missing.

The real cost is a minimum of $20 million per mile, not the $1 million Donovan states. Google “light rail cost per mile” and see what you get. It’s $63 million per mile average, in one study of 15 rail lines.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit lines in San Francisco are often touted as “successful” by rail aficionados, but BART carries only 2 percent of the commuters at a cost of $333 million per mile. It’s a boondoggle.

Light rail may be a good idea, but somebody has to pay for it; $450 million seems a little steep for a line to Brunswick, unless the tracks already exist.

The transportation infrastructure overall in Maine is in dire need of upgrade, as can be demonstrated in the upcoming replacement of the Kittery Bridge. Too much has been put off for too long. Almost a half a billion dollars could do more for Maine as a state, versus just Brunswick.

The question is: Is the ridership demand there? Riders are on the roads, and at $1 million per mile, expensive as that is, it’s a deal.

We have to watch those zeroes. They add up.

Brian Peterson
Westbrook

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