Portland-Auburn passenger rail is subject of meeting

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PORTLAND — The public will get a chance to learn more about a proposed Portland-to-Auburn passenger train line at a meeting Wednesday afternoon.

Sponsored by the Maine Rail Transit Coalition and the Sierra Club of Maine, the meeting will focus on the long-studied transit link that would shuttle passengers 29 miles along existing tracks between Auburn and India Street in Portland.

“I will not speculate on the probability of (the train line’s) success, but if it were to happen, the benefits for Portland and for our neighborhood would be considerable,” India Street Neighborhood Association Treasurer Hugh Nazor said in an email. “The Auburn terminal would connect to many other lines and commuting to Portland from the north would be available by train.”

The proposed line has recently been overshadowed by the extension of Amtrak’s Boston-bound Downeaster train service from Portland to Brunswick. But in August, coalition founder and President Tony Donovan announced a $15,000 National Association of Realtors grant to continue evaluating the feasibility of the Auburn line.

The idea has been idea studied since the mid-1990s. The coalition estimates that restoring tracks, buying rail cars and building platforms for the line would cost $60 million-$70 million.

Wednesday’s meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in the conference room of the Casco Bay Lines ferry terminal, at Franklin and Commercial streets.

William Hall can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or whall@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @hallwilliam4.