Maine has one of the most aggressive rail passenger rail programs in the country, and last week Federal Administrator Joe Szabo gave a compelling address about how that's helping Maine's economy:
Tourism is one of Maine’s biggest industries. According to Carolann Oulette, Director of Maine’s Office of Tourism, more visitors come to Maine from Boston than any other location. Last week I visited Maine, where federal and state investments in the Downeaster service will bring new service to the towns of Brunswick and Freeport, connecting them to Boston and Portland.
The recession that started in early 2008 brought real estate development across the country to a standstill, but thanks to the promise of expanded service, Maine is seeing new construction around its train stations. During my trip, I stayed at the Inn at Brunswick, a beautiful new hotel that is part of a new development that includes medical offices, restaurants, retail stories and the station itself. Project manager Michael Lyne of JHR Development said the project would never have moved forward without new train service to Brunswick.
Freeport is known as a world class shopping destination and home to LL Bean’s headquarters. Deb King, Executive Director of the Greater Freeport Chamber of Commerce, said retailers in the town’s 170 store shopping district adjacent to the new train platform look forward to more shoppers visiting from Boston and Portland when train service begins in November. The new $2.5 million movie theatre next to the train station is the latest new attraction to open in Freeport.
In Portland, private developers are planning a $100 million investment in Thompson’s Point near the train station. The investment would turn a brownfield site into a new entertainment and business district for the city. The new investment includes a sports and convention complex that would be the new home of the NBA Development League’s Portland Red Claws. The new development would create 475 permanent jobs that would add $11 million in annual wages to the Portland economy. In addition city coffers would see nearly $1 million per year in new tax revenue.
These investments are just the start for the people of Maine. An independent study shows that by 2030, Downeaster train service will spur nearly $7.2 billion in new construction along the corridor. Nearly 18,000 new jobs will be created. State and local budgets will benefit each year from nearly $75 million in new tax revenue generated from increased economic activity.
Maine's Department of Transportation has produced a video about the expansion of Downeaster Service.