The first 250 riders on the Amtrak Downeaster’s inaugural trip from Boston to Freeport and Brunswick, ME will include Durham Town Manager Todd Selig, NH Transportation Commissioner Christopher Clement, Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo, Amtrak Vice President Joe McHugh, among others. Regular service to Freeport and Brunswick begins Friday.
The expansion to Freeport, home to L.L. Bean's flagship store and outlet shopping, and to Brunswick, home of Bowdoin College and Brunswick Landing, fulfills the original vision for the passenger rail service, which launched between Portland and Boston on Dec. 15, 2001.
Selig stated, "The Downeaster is coming off a record year with 528,292 passengers, and ridership is expected to grow by an additional 36,000 passengers with the expanded service."
The service will open up new tourism opportunities as well as transportation options for Bowdoin students and faculty and for businesses at Brunswick Landing, the former Brunswick Naval Air Station.
The Downeaster currently serves eight communities between Boston and Portland: Old Orchard Beach, Saco and Wells in Maine; Dover, Durham and Exeter in New Hampshire; and Haverhill and Woburn in Massachusetts.
The expansion was made possible through $38.3 million in Federal stimulus dollars, which was used to improve 30 miles of track and rehabilitate 36 crossings between Portland and Brunswick. The state of Maine also spent a half-million dollars to install train platforms in Freeport and Brunswick.
Selig states, “With more than 53,000 passengers annually from Durham and the University of New Hampshire alone, enhancing Amtrak Downeaster service is very consistent with Durham’s goals toward sustainability, reducing the community’s carbon footprint, and reducing unnecessary congestion on local and state roadways.”
On September 21st, Administrator Selig met with Mr. William Hollister, Principal Officer of Government Affairs at Amtrak, as well as with Mr. Ray Lang, Chief of State Government Relations for Amtrak. At thattime, Messrs Hollister and Lang were in the process of visiting with host station communities along the Amtrak Downeaster corridor to provide updates on rider statistics (Period FY 2011 10/1 – 9/30) for the service:
Station Total Ridership
Old Orchard Beach 14,533
Selig and NH Transportation Commissioner Christopher Clement, both of whom are Durham residents, boarded the southbound Downeaster train at 6:28 AM to travel to Boston for the kickoff run this morning.