AUGUSTA — A pair of bills introduced Tuesday by state Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, would bring as much as $38 million in state bonding to the Twin Cities.
One measure asks for $18 million in state-backed bonds to upgrade the rails from Yarmouth to Auburn in the hope of bringing passenger train service to the Twin Cities, Craven said.
The other asks for $20 million to redevelop Lewiston's Riverfront Island area. The city has already created a plan for redevelopment, which includes the area between Lincoln Street and the Androscoggin River from the Longley Bridge to Lown Peace Bridge connecting Little Canada to New Auburn.
The city hired Goody Clancy in 2012 to help draft a development plan. The consultants took a walking tour of the area last September, capping months spent poring over previous studies of the downtown.
After their walking tour in September, they spent several days meeting with residents, business owners and volunteers. They created a website: www.riverfrontislandmasterplan.com.
Craven said the bond money, if approved, would be used to demolish unsafe buildings, to clear river frontage and to upgrade the local public parks to improve safety.
Full implementation of the plan would cost more than $20 million, but Craven said the money would be a good start. "We have to start somewhere." Craven said the bond money would not be used for demolition of Bates Mill No. 5, which is included in the redevelopment area.
"In my opinion, it's an economic development and a downtown bond, and I'm very anxious, and I feel very confident it might pass because it is going to beautify Lewiston-Auburn," Craven said.
Her bill seeking money for passenger rail would be targeted at upgrading rail lines from Yarmouth to Auburn. Upgrades would improve the track speed and capacity, allowing passenger rail and increased freight traffic.
She said she hopes it would be the first step to rebuilding a rail link between Maine and Montreal via Auburn and Bethel.
"The intent is for the money to be used to strengthen the rails, so that eventually we would be able to have passenger rail there," she said.
Craven said she has another bill being prepared that would help bring the passenger rail from Portland to Lewiston-Auburn. She said reconnecting Maine to Canada with passenger rail would help with economic development.
The bill is partially in response to passenger rail being extended to Brunswick in recent years while the state's second-largest population center — Lewiston-Auburn — was excluded.
"I'm very resentful that didn't come to the state's second most populated area," Craven said.
Both measures must be approved by the full Legislature and by voters.