As Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo wrote in this blog last Saturday, “if we continue strengthening passenger rail service, even more people will choose it.”
Under President Obama’s leadership, DOT is committed to continuing to do just that.
Yesterday, Administrator Szabo traveled to Maine, where he joined Maine DOT Commissioner David Bernhardt and local business leaders in celebrating the completion of new train station platforms in Brunswick and Freeport. These new platforms are the latest steps in the expansion of Amtrak’s Downeaster line.
The extended line will begin serving Brunswick and Freeport this fall, providing both cities with passenger rail service for the first time since 1959.
The Downeaster line expansion was funded by a $38.3 million High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program grant from the FRA, and in August 2010, this terrific project was the first of its kind to break ground.
The Downeaster is already a big hit with New Englanders – its record-breaking ridership in 2011 was up 8 percent from 2010, and the number of passengers the line carried last year--more than half a million--is more than double what it carried in 2005. And when the expansion opens this fall, ridership will only increase even more.
In addition, Maine is proving that the benefits of passenger rail development go beyond state lines. According to the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, the work along the Downeaster corridor is creating business orders and sustaining and creating jobs at 53 companies in 20 different states.
Brunswick is proving that as soon as you create or improve existing passenger rail service, new growth, new businesses and new jobs are sure to follow. By 2030, Brunswick’s transit-oriented development is projected to includes more than $325 million in new construction investment, more than 800 jobs, and more than $7 million in saved transportation costs.
And for Freeport, reclaiming a connection to passenger rail is also a big win. Freeport’s transit-oriented development by 2030 is projected to include more than $120 million in new construction investment, 300 jobs, and more than $2 million in saved transportation costs.
Brunswick and Freeport are great examples of how rail investment can provide jobs, greater economic development and greater mobility. Because of those terrific benefits, this Administration remains committed to investing in America's passenger rail renaissance.