Twin Cities and Portland officials have started talking about establishing commuter bus service between the two metropolitan areas.

“It’s going to take some time because it’s a big issue,” said Phil Nadeau, Lewiston deputy city administrator and chairman of the Lewiston-Auburn Transit Committee. “If we are trying to establish some kind of commuter service that would be used, setting it up in some way that’s attractive for people is a serious undertaking and it needs to be designed well.”

Nadeau, Howard Kroll, Auburn’s acting city manager, and LATC Transit Coordinator Marsha Bennett met with Portland METRO General Manager Gregory Jordan Wednesday to talk about what it would take to bring Portland bus service to the Twin Cities.

“It’s not the kind of thing you rush, but we don’t want to take forever,” Nadeau said.

He said he expects a concrete plan could be presented near the end of the year.

“We are not talking about something that would be included in the budget discussions we are having now,” Nadeau said. “It won’t be in this next fiscal year. That’s an absolute certainty.”

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City councils in the three cities all approved resolutions in February 2013, calling for commuter service between Maine’s two largest metropolitan areas, noting that all three cities would benefit from fewer car trips on central Maine’s roads.

Portland METRO’s Jordan said Portland has been busy since then working to expand service up the I-295 corridor. Portland METRO has secured grant funding to run routes to Yarmouth and Freeport and is discussing the expansion of service into Brunswick as well.

“I think it’ll be a great expansion of the transit network in the region, tying into the towns and cities to the north,” Jordan said. “They have a lot of workers that are going to jobs in Portland. This will be a great boost.”

The current job will be reviewing past transportation studies to see if enough people would use the service to have it make sense.

“I think we’re going to do some data analysis — census data and employment and population density estimates and the current commutes or trips between the two communities,” Jordan said. “It’s very preliminary at this point.”

Nadeau agreed, saying it will take months of work before anything is presented to the public.

“This thing needs to be well thought out,” Nadeau said. “It could be dependent on some level of contribution from the two cities and future federal funding. So we have some work to do, but we are confident we can bring something forward that will be meaningful.”

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