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In downtown Augusta, a part of the monitor mattress was buried underneath gravel and in some locations asphalt to create parking areas. A nine-month examine is underway to study whether or not the 34-mile, unused rail corridor between Augusta and Brunswick needs to be transformed to a leisure path or retained for rail use solely ought to trains return to the realm.
Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal
Whether it is trains or mountaineering trails, many in central Maine need a now unused state-owned railroad corridor that follows a lot of the Kennebec River between Augusta and Brunswick to be put again into use.
IIt’s a pricey endeavor, however one that might spur financial improvement for communities alongside the way in which, whether or not they’re practice riders, path customers, or each.
Some advocates of preserving the corridor for rail service restoration proceed to increase issues that when the rail corridor often called the Lower Road is transformed to a leisure path, trains won’t ever return.
Passers-by on the Kennebec River Rail Trail watch because the Maine Eastern Railroad practice stops in Augusta earlier than returning to Hallowell throughout a day-long journey in May 2008. A nine-month examine is underway to study whether or not 34 miles of the unused rail corridor between Augusta and Brunswick needs to be transformed to the same leisure path or retained for rail use solely ought to trains return to the realm.
Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file
Proponents of changing it to a footpath, in the meantime, argue that it’s going to have a far higher affect on the financial and bodily well being of communities alongside the corridor than an lively rail line, and that it might have the ability to accommodate each rail and footpaths.
But many contributors in a latest Zoom dialogue of a proposal to discover modifications to the corridor stated they only wished each proposals to transfer ahead so the scenic asset can be utilized and never simply mendacity round unused as most has been for many years .
“We’d like to see the Lower Road being used more intensively, in some way, restoring the rails or implementing the Merrymeeting Trail project,” stated Keith Luke, the City of Augusta’s financial improvement director, throughout Lower Road Rail’s first assembly Use Advisory Council Wednesday. “Do something. This ongoing status quo doesn’t take full advantage of the corridor in any context. I think we’re the strongest advocates here for doing something, one way or another.”
Under state guidelines, the Rail Use Advisory Council, shaped after municipal officials wrote to the state Department of Transportation alongside the corridor to request that the potential for the 34-mile corridor to be used as a leisure path be investigated , 9 months to be assisted by consultants, examine the difficulty and make suggestions to the MDOT for consideration for potential laws.
According to Nate Howard, MDOT Rail Director, the examine will contemplate three utilization choices: preserve the corridor for rail use solely; convert it to tracked rail, comparable to the prevailing Kennebec River Rail Trail, with a brand new monitor to be constructed adjoining to the prevailing rails; and what Howard referred to as an “interim trail option” the place the rails may very well be eliminated and changed with a path, with the understanding that the potential for utilizing the corridor again on rails would stay if trains had been introduced again.
Remains of a railroad bridge over Route 24 in Richmond are seen after the construction was eliminated in January 2017. If officials agree to create a leisure path alongside an unused rail corridor between Augusta and Brunswick, they have to resolve whether or not to construct it alongside the prevailing tracks, or quickly take away the tracks. The state has an obligation to protect the corridor for rail use in case trains return to the realm.
Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file
Howard stated the state acquired the corridor with Federal Railroad funds, so no matter what situation, if any, is taken into account to be used as a path, the state should protect the corridor for rail use.
The corridor already contains the Kennebec River Rail Trail between Augusta and Gardiner, which follows alongside the tracks. The tracks stay, however will not be at the moment utilized by trains. A portion of them are paved in a car parking zone in Augusta, though Luke famous that if an operator expresses curiosity in trains utilizing that portion of the route, the town has agreed to open and restore the tracks to rail service.
The examine would come with price estimates for every possibility.
Estimates from 2015 put the price of constructing the proposed Merrymeeting Trail on the corridor between Gardiner and Topsham alongside the prevailing tracks at round US$50 million.
Participants within the Rail Use Council assembly stated the corridor, which is introduced again to service by way of paths or rails, might assist the native financial system.
Passengers wave from a window as Gardiner’s Lincoln Lukin images a practice touring alongside the Kennebec River Rail Trail in Farmingdale in May 2008. The Maine Eastern Railroad practice made a one-day particular journey. A nine-month examine is underway to study whether or not 34 miles of the unused rail corridor between Augusta and Brunswick needs to be transformed to the same leisure path or retained for rail use solely ought to trains return to the realm.
Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file
“Our primary interest is to get rid of this stranded penny-less asset,” stated Gardiner’s Gay Grant. “We need to attract new people to our communities, and quality of life and active transportation options are key elements in bringing people into our communities. We’re interested in what’s the best economic driver for our communities, if that’s rail then show me the numbers. If it’s trails, I think there are already numbers showing the benefits of that.”
Richard Rudolph, chairman of the Rail Users Network and a board member of the Maine Rail Group, stated the state ought to fund a feasibility examine for bringing the railroad again from Brunswick to Bangor. He stated local weather change is making folks search for options to driving, and trains might fill that position.
The group is anticipated to meet month-to-month however won’t meet in December.
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