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October 16, 2018

Kennebunk tables Amtrak Downeaster station project

Courtesy / Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority
Courtesy / Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority
Plans to create a seasonal train station for the Amtrak Downeaster in Kennebunk have stalled, following the Kennebunk Board of Selectmen's action to halt the project after Maine Department of Transportation deemed the proposed site was too small.

The Kennebunk Board of Selectmen halted plans for development of a seasonal train station for the Amtrak Downeaster.

Town Manager Mike Pardue said the Maine Department of Transportation said the proposed property, a former train depot at 12 Depot St., is too small, seacoastonline.com reported.

Pardue said DOT officials have offered to discuss establishing a seasonal express shuttle service from the Wells train station to downtown Kennebunk to meet transit needs for the elderly, disabled and low income community members.

According to town documents, in 2014 the citizens of Kennebunk voted in favor of a bond to pay for a number of projects, including $300,000 that was to be set aside for the project implementation of a seasonal train stop along the Amtrak Downeaster line from Brunswick to Boston. The Department of Transportation appropriated $800,000 for the project.

In May, the town's Economic Development Committee presented a report favoring the station, citing its potential to spur new business creation such as bike rentals, taxis and buses; increased day-tripper visits from Boston; and passenger spending on local businesses.

Over the past year, the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority has been in discussions regarding bringing the Amtrak Downeaster to other Maine municipalities. Last March the authority hosted workshops to explore the development of passenger rail service connecting Lewiston/Auburn, Portland and Boston.

Last January, Wiscasset indicated its willing to commit funds to be a part of a Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority plan to bring the Amtrak Downeaster up the coast.

Wiscasset selectmen unanimously indicated the town would be willing to build a small platform allowing passengers to enter and leave the train in the event NNEPRA secures funding and gets approval to run its Downeaster service north of Brunswick.

The service is a pilot project dubbed the "Coastal Connection," and would only run on weekends as a slower excursion designed for tourists.

The authority also held a forum in Rockland last January, where nearly all of the 70 attendees welcomed a proposed pilot project for weekend summer passenger rail service there, according to an authority news release.

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