AUBURN — If you build it, they will come — maybe.
The first phase of a study looking at bringing passenger rail to Lewiston-Auburn says the region has a “latent demand” for a transit connection to Portland.
The City Council, which appointed three members to a regional Project Committee tasked with studying the feasibility of a service, is scheduled to discuss the first phase of the study during a workshop Monday.
According to the council agenda, committee members Jonathan LaBonte, Auburn’s former mayor, and Bob Stone, a former city councilor, will present an update on the study.
Officials in Lewiston and Auburn, along with the Maine Department of Transportation and the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, hosted two public meetings this past spring, and were encouraged by the public response.
Hundreds of people attended, circling past a series of interactive posters that gauged why and when residents might use a rail service to Portland and beyond.
The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority manages the Amtrak Downeaster passenger rail service from Boston to Maine. Just last week, the company announced that expanded train service to Brunswick and Freeport will begin Nov. 12.
While previous studies in Lewiston-Auburn have looked at possible northern connections to Montreal, this study is focused on whether connecting to the Amtrak service is possible.
In order to receive federal funding toward the rail service, the study was required.
A council memo on the study states the first phase conducted an assessment of potential ridership, where a range of ridership estimates were developed by evaluating the demographics and travel patterns in the area. Potential development opportunities of a rail connection and similar rail corridors across the country were also considered.
The study estimates between 600 and 800 daily trips in 2025, numbers that are estimated to rise to between 700 and 1,900 by 2040.
The presentation says a major takeaway from the first phase of the study is that “the lower and upper limit of the ridership demand depend largely on the level of service and connections that would be made.”
The study is also looking into potential corridors and stations. The second phase will take on the larger infrastructure and cost assessments.