- Police Beat
- The Forecaster
PORTLAND — A new depot for the Amtrak Downeaster could be coming down the line.
“We are trying to determine with factors at hand if relocation is even feasible,” Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, said April 12 about a possible new station.
Since Boston-to-Portland service began in 2001, trains have arrived and departed from Thompson’s Point. The setting is now known as the Portland Transportation Center and shared with Concord Coach Lines bus service.
Expanding service and ridership are factors in the desire for a new station, Quinn said.
“There are constraints at the existing location, including parking, location, and because it is on a branch line,” she said.
Downeaster service has already expanded north to Freeport and Brunswick. A pilot program to assess service to Rockland was considered last summer, and there have been discussions about connecting with commuter rail service from Lewiston-Auburn.
Quinn said the Portland station’s location adds 15 minutes to each trip because trains must pull on and off the main line to get to the station.
All five weekday roundtrips, and four of five roundtrips on Saturdays and Sundays, begin and end in Brunswick. The other weekend roundtrip begins and ends in Portland.
“There are no places under consideration, (but) we want to be on the main line,” Quinn added. “We’d want a location with good vehicular access, pedestrian access, and proximity to downtown.”
The search parameters are not fully defined yet, either.
“(We) want to be as collaborative as possible,” Quinn said, adding that NNEPRA will work with the city, Maine Department of Transportation, and the Greater Portland Council of Governments as it moves forward.
Considering a new station also comes as NNEPRA looks to make the Downeaster a more viable local option for travel, as opposed to just an alternative way to get to Boston and back.
The Downeaster set a record last year with 534,000 passengers, according to NNEPRA. In the first quarter this year, ridership exceeded the first quarter of 2018.
Last month, NNEPRA Board Chairman John Melrose said 87% of riders are going to and from Boston, placing Portland seventh on the regional list for highest Amtrak use.
Melrose said the Downeaster has been affected by inadequate stations that lack parking. Six miles of additional track near Wells will also improve travel time, because trains will not be required to sit at sidings while freight trains pass.
While the Downeaster may get a new home in the city, developers of the mixed-use Rock Row in what was a Westbrook quarry are also looking at a rail link to the city, using the track running to the Portland Transportation Center.
The Amtrak Downeaster pulls into Portland on April 12. Officials are looking for a site for a new city station on the main rail line between Brunswick and Boston.
Having to use a branch line to reach the Portland Transportation Center at Thompson’s Point adds 15 minutes per trip to the Amtrak Downeaster schedule.