Portland, Auburn and Lewiston officials are working together to promote a commuter bus or rail service between the Twin Cities and southern Maine.
"We are trying to build a solid foundation to show why we want it, and build the advocacy from there," Auburn Mayor LaBonte said. "It's one of the rare times all three cities are trying to stake out a shared policy position."
LaBonte was scheduled to attend a meeting of the Portland Transportation, Sustainability and Energy Committee Wednesday night. That's one of the Portland City Council's standing committees that reviews legislation before the full council votes.
The draft resolution notes that both communities would benefit from regular transit service between them. It also states that all three cities would benefit from reduced car trips on Maine's roads.
The resolution calls on the Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center, the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System and all three cities to work together to study transit service in order to come up with workable options.
LaBonte said he expects the resolution will be before members of all three City Councils in January.
"There are a number of ways this could take shape," LaBonte said. "No matter how it finally comes together, it's to come from out-of-the-box thinking. It could be a private-public partnership or some creative way that gets access to federal or state or even local financial resources."
A Portland-to-Auburn commuter line could be part of the city's discussion about where to locate a new Citylink bus station. LaBonte said the current plan is to build the station on Spring Street between Hannaford and Elm Street, where it would have easy access to rail and to downtown residents.
"We have committed to build a more robust center with an understanding that this is where a Portland connection will go," LaBonte said. "It's an area that would have connectivity to existing routes and would have extension potential that could include rail."
But it's too soon to begin discussing who would manage the system, he said. The Twin Cities Citylink system only operates in Lewiston-Auburn, and LaBonte said he does not imagine it will add routes.
"I see them as having a supporting role," he said. "Our transit system is not as robust as Portland's, so locally our committee will need to strategize how they will increase service over the next few years."
Lewiston City Councilor Craig Saddlemire said he is hoping to make the Portland commuter issue and its proposed resolution the topic of a joint Lewiston-Auburn City Council meeting.
"Lewiston has not had the discussion yet," Saddlemire said. "I'm hoping we can talk about it in the near future. There are a number of ideas about how to do it, but they are just ideas floating around. I've been waiting for the right opportunity to talk about it with the council."