AUBURN — Councilors on Monday threw their support behind a set of bills aimed at ultimately bringing rail to the Twin Cities.

Councilors voted 6-1 to pass an impromptu resolution vowing to work with Lewiston and with state and federal partners to study regional rail service and find a way to bring it downtown.

“The real issue is not talking fully about rail itself,” Councilor Bob Hayes said. “There is a bill before the Legislature right now with respect to funding a study, and it goes beyond rail. Whatever data comes out of this study could support some kind of transportation between here and Portland.”

State Legislators are considering some bills that could advance local efforts to run passenger rail between the Twin Cities and Portland.

One bill, put forward by State Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, would set aside an estimated $1 million for engineering and environmental impact studies on a state-owned rail line that runs between Yarmouth and Danville Junction in Auburn.

A second would help finance the expansion while putting the project in a “shovel-ready” position and in line for federal funding.

A third bill would provide funds for part of the actual construction work needed to upgrade the line.

Councilors spent less time debating the resolution than they spent debating whether they should have even discussed it at Monday’s meeting.

The resolution, presented by Councilors Hayes and Mary LaFontaine, was handed to rest of the council just before Monday’s meeting. Councilor Tizz Crowley said she needed at least one full workshop meeting and regular public hearing to discuss the matter.

“It is an important thing,” Crowley said. “I think this is serious. I support rail, but I don’t want to rush through this.”

But Hayes said there is a need for speed.

“I think this is only supporting the bill before the Legislature, so it is time sensitive,” Hayes said. “We’ve said for a long time — Lewiston and Auburn need to speak with one voice — so I don’t think this is a debate about the rail issue. It’s supporting a study and the valuable information that comes out of that.”

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