April 20, 2019

State wants help with study on rail service to Brunswick

BRUNSWICK — Bargain-hunters could ride the rails to the outlets in Freeport under a proposal to extend passenger train service to Brunswick.

The state is asking midcoast businesses to help foot the bill for a study on bringing passenger rail service to Brunswick.

State officials have committed $100,000 to study the feasibility of providing rail service to Brunswick. At a meeting Wednesday, they asked midcoast businesses to match that investment.

L.L. Bean officials, whose retail store in downtown Freeport is a popular tourist destination, said it would help finance the study.

State officials said the Brunswick leg would not be on the initial Portland-to-Boston passenger rail route, tentatively scheduled to begin late this year. The state has already committed all $38.6 million in passenger rail funds getting train service as far north as Portland, said Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner John Melrose.

Improving the tracks between Portland and Brunswick could cost another $2 million to $4 million.

Sen. Phillip Harriman, R-Yarmouth, and other rail supporters had hoped the Brunswick leg could be added to the Boston-to-Portland route from the beginning. Harriman said that more people would ride the train if it went to Freeport.

Bill Shea, vice president of retail at L.L. Bean, said the company was willing to contribute its “fair share” to the study.

“We feel confident that if we improve infrastructure we could bring in more tourists and improve their experience once they get here,” said Shea.

Without the benefit of the study, Melrose said his gut feeling was that trains to Brunswick make sense. The draw of Freeport is a powerful factor, as is Brunswick’s position as the connecting point to tracks running to Augusta, Rockland and Lewiston-Auburn, he said.

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