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Updated: December 11, 2023

Amtrak Downeaster gets $27.5M for track upgrades

Train on the track Photo / Courtesy of Amtrak Amtrak’s Downeaster rail service has secured a $27.5 million federal grant to make track-related improvements on the mainline from Brunswick to the Massachusetts border.

Amtrak’s Downeaster rail service has secured a $27.5 million federal grant to make repairs and related improvements along the tracks between Brunswick and the Massachusetts border.

The project, estimated at a total cost of $34.3 million according to a news release, aims to keep the rails in good condition, reducing the need to impose speed limits on the passenger trains, reducing freight delays and improving safety and service.

Over the long term, the goal is to support future expansions along the Downeaster's route, which runs 146 miles between Brunswick and Boston and includes six stops in Maine.

CSX Transportation, which owns the line, will provide matching funds of 20% for the upgrades, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration. Construction is expected in 2024 and 2025. CSX Transportation is a subsidiary of Jacksonville, Fla.-based CSX Corp. (Nasdaq: CSX), which took over the tracks as part of its acquisition of Pan Am Railways.

The Amtrak Downeaster project is one of 10 major passenger rail projects nationwide set to receive a combined $8.2 billion, as announced by President Joe Biden on Friday. The list includes a planned high-speed rail system between California and Nevada, and expanding capacity at Chicago’s Union Station.

In addition to the $27.5 million for the Amtrak Downeaster, the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority will receive $500,000 to explore building a new Amtrak Downeaster station in West Falmouth and extending train service from Brunswick to Rockland.

The funding comes as Downeaster ridership heads back to pre-pandemic levels. Data released this summer show that 516,723 passengers were transported in the 2023 fiscal year, exceeding a half-million annual passengers for the first time since fiscal 2019. 

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