LEWISTON — A proposal to connect the Twin Cities to Portland and the Amtrak Downeaster with a commuter rail service will take another step Wednesday as officials host a meeting to present possible service scenarios between the two regions.

According to Bob Stone, member of the Lewiston/Auburn Passenger Rail Service Plan Committee, most of the scenarios to be presented Wednesday center on the idea of connecting Lewiston-Auburn to the Portland Transportation Center, where travelers could continue on to Boston.

Another option would connect to the Portland Ocean Gateway on Commercial Street.

The meeting, intended to get feedback from the public, will be from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday in Callahan Hall at the Lewiston Public Library, 200 Lisbon St.

Stone said the feedback heard Wednesday will play into the committee’s eventual recommendation to be made after Phase 2 of the group’s study is completed this spring. Phase 1 of the study, conducted last year, focused on gauging demand and potential ridership for the service, which found a “latent demand” for a passenger rail connection to Portland.

“We wanted to give the public a status update, but the second objective is to get public input,” he said.


The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority manages the Amtrak Downeaster passenger rail service from Boston to Maine. Last year, the company expanded train service to Brunswick and Freeport.

The process in Lewiston-Auburn began in 2015, when the Legislature approved $400,000 to conduct a study and complete a plan for the implementation of passenger rail service between the cities. Lewiston and Auburn each contributed $50,000 toward the project.

A nine-member committee was established to oversee the project and engineering firm VHB was brought in as a consultant.

According to a news release from Natasha Velickovic, lead project consultant for VHB, the second phase of the study included service scenarios and “an assessment of infrastructure needs and costs to support various service scenarios, and a potential plan for implementation,” which will be presented Wednesday.

“Various rail alignments are under consideration, which may include the communities of Lewiston, Auburn, Gray, North Yarmouth, Yarmouth, Falmouth, and Cumberland, as well as Portland,” she said.

Stone gave a basic breakdown of the scenarios Tuesday, saying there are four main scenarios. Most would establish a “commuter rail” service, with between 12 and 15 round trips daily.


Route A, he said, would take passengers from Lewiston-Auburn to the Portland Transportation Center via the PanAm line, which is currently used for freight. Route B would take passengers from Lewiston-Auburn to the Portland Transportation Center via the St. Lawrence line to Yarmouth, switching there to the PanAm line.

Route C, and seemingly less likely, would go from Lewiston-Auburn to the Portland Ocean Gateway via the St. Lawrence line, heading past B&M Baked Beans and Tukey’s Bridge and requiring upgrades to the “swing bridge” alongside the highway that’s permanently stuck in the open position.

The final option, Stone said, would be a phasing plan, bringing a “rail shuttle” from Lewiston-Auburn to the Yarmouth junction, where it would meet the Downeaster.

He said phasing would provide a more cost-effective option that could lead to one of the first three routes once funding is in place. No matter what, he estimated, the state would be looking at roughly $200 million in track rehabilitation and other costs.

Stone said the committee had not yet determined where stations would be located in Lewiston and Auburn.

At a well-attended public meeting last spring, a majority of the survey respondents said they’d more likely use the Lewiston to Portland connection for leisure reasons. Sporting and entertainment events in Portland and Boston were routinely cited.

Stone said Tuesday that one of problems all transit faces is a “first mile-last mile issue,” which means how a rider gets from home to the train, and from the train to either a job or other destination. He said Route C, for example, could still leave passengers needing another connection to the Downeaster.

He said the final committee meeting is set for April and he expects the group’s recommendation to come soon after that.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.