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August 1, 2018

Kennebunk train stop proposal chugs toward vote

Courtesy / Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority
Courtesy / Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority
The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, the public transportation authority created in 1995 to oversee the Downeaster passenger rail service between Maine and Boston and points within Maine, could pick up an additional passenger rail stop in Kennebunk. The town's Board of Selectmen is considering putting a proposal to voters on the November ballot.

After several delays, a proposal to create a passenger rail stop in Kennebunk seems to be firming up and could be on a November ballot for approval by voters.

At its Aug. 14 meeting, the town's Board of Selectmen may consider a lease of property along Depot Street for the stop, the Kennebunk Post reported. A public hearing about the lease may also be scheduled. The board would have to decide by Sept. 11 on whether to send the proposal to voters.

The deal calls for the town to lease a strip of land between a former railroad depot and Summer Street for rent of $1 per year for the first five years, and $5,000 per year afterward. The site would become a seasonal stop for the Amtrak's Downeaster train service, which last year experienced near-record-high ridership and was slated for extension to Rockland.

The Downeaster already makes a stop from April to October in Old Orchard Beach.

The Kennebunk stop would include an 80-foot-long loading platform, a public restroom building, and 20 parking spaces, according to the Post.

The site, owned by Tim Dietz, was first considered as a stop for renewed train service in 2014, when Kennebunk voters approved a $300,000 bond for its development. The bond would be matched by an $800,000 federal grant, administered through the Maine Department of Transportation.

Plans stalled until last December, when selectmen voted to begin the process of site selection. Attention initially focused on another potential stop, on Plummer Lane. But in May, after months of deliberation, the town's Economic Development Committee recommended a return to the Depot Street location.

"There are a lot more advantages to that property," EDC member Gary Dugas said at a public meeting. "You can walk to [downtown] Kennebunk from there without crossing [Summer Street], you've got better traffic pattern, you can get out easier to go to Kennebunkport, or you can follow Factory Pasture Lane to Kennebunk."

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