Amtrak’s Downeaster will receive $27 million under a new initiative from the Biden administration to improve and expand passenger rail service across the country.

The funds for the Downeaster Corridor Track Improvement Project will improve the mainline from Brunswick to the Massachusetts state line and help avoid delays and longer transit times.

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which operates the Downeaster, also will receive a $500,000 grant to explore building a new station in Falmouth and extending train service from Brunswick to Rockland, something that has long been considered.

Both awards were part of $8.2 billion in funds announced Friday under the Federal Railroad Administration’s Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Program. It’s the largest federal investment in passenger rail transportation since Amtrak was created in 1971.

The largest portion – $3 billion – will help pay for a new rail line from Las Vegas to Los Angeles that is supposed to be finished before the 2028 summer Olympics in L.A. The trip will take about two hours, or half the time it takes to drive.

Also receiving funds are a Los Angeles-to-San Francisco train; a rail expansion between Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Virginia; and other upgrades in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and other states.


“Passengers from across America will be thrilled to read about the funding agreements announced today,” said Jim Mathews, president and CEO of the Rail Passengers Association. “These grants will support the introduction of daily Amtrak service in regions that currently have to make do with trains that only come through their town three times per week; they will help expand popular Amtrak services in rapidly growing parts of the Southeast; and they’ll plant the seeds for scores of new routes across the nation.”

Additional funding comes as ridership on the Downeaster has slowly returned to pre-pandemic levels. Data released this summer showed 516,723 passengers were transported during the 2023 fiscal year that ended June 30. It was the first time annual ridership exceeded a half million riders since 2019.

The news also comes shortly after Amtrak announced that it was raising its prices for the first time since 2018.

Amtrak said the change in fare structure was made to simplify options and provide riders with more flexibility. The train service now offers flex tickets, which are fully refundable and can be changed without fee before departure; and value tickets, which cost less but are not changeable and are refunded at 75% of the cost if canceled.

For Downeaster tickets, the increase in price is between $2 and $10, depending on destinations, accommodations and special offers.

Amtrak has other travel incentives, including “night owl” fares on some late trains, expanded children’s discounts, and share fares that allow groups of 3-8 people traveling together to get a discount.

Amtrak receives subsidies from state and federal governments to augment what it earns in ticket revenue, and pricing is controlled by states.

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