Downeaster is a 116-mile regional passenger train service. It has been in operation since 2001. The train services are managed by the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) while the operations are carried out by Amtrak.
In August 2010, the project to expand the Downeaster service between Freeport and Brunswick was undertaken. Most of the construction work on the expansion was suspended in January 2012 due to adverse weather conditions.
The contractors expect to resume the final works later in 2012 and the expanded Downeaster service is scheduled to commence by the end of 2012.
The project is expected to serve about 35,600 new riders in a year. Amtrak will operate two daily trips to Brunswick and MERR will provide passenger services to Rockland on the expanded line. The trains will run at an average speed of up to 70mph.
Details of the $38m New England-based project
The $38m project includes rehabilitation of 27 miles of track belonging to Pan Am Railways, plus 1.2 miles of track owned by MaineDOT.
In January 2011, NNEPRA received $35m grant from the federal government to carry out the track and signal upgrades on Portland-Brunswick line.
The expansion of service will benefit in increasing the tourism and redevelopment of Brunswick Naval Air Station, and provide a connection to Rockland Branch.
Construction of the Downeaster 116-mile regional passenger train service
Construction of most of the track rehabilitation work for the expansion project was completed in 2011. The track was replaced with more than 290 continuously welded rails (CWR).
Pan Am Communication and Signal crew completed the ground work associated with the installation of cable and conduit on 29 crossings. About 31 grade crossing panels out of 36, which lie between Portland and Brunswick, were rehabilitated with new signal equipment by January 2012.
Bridges and buildings crew of Pan Am Railways rehabilitated the deep cut by removing 5,000t of fouled ballast and installing 18 catchment basins in 2010. They also replaced 12 culverts and seven more culverts are expected to be replaced in 2012.
Almost 80% of the work on rehabilitation of three stone arches was completed and the final repairs are expected to be completed by spring 2012.
Drainage works in front of Brunswick station were completed and double tracks were installed between Maine Street, Union Street, Stanwood Street and Church Road in spring 2011.
By the end of 2011, construction of concrete portions of the passenger platforms at Brunswick and Freeport stations was completed. Installation of overhead lighting on platforms is being continued. The contractors expect to complete installation of canopies, railings and other finishes on platforms by March 2012.
As of January 2012, about 22,754 ties were replaced and 15,000 additional ties will be replaced in 2012. Approximately 13,126t of ballast was used for upgrading the Brunswick Branch lines.
Financing behind NNEPRA and Amtrak’s railway expansion project
The overall investment for the project is $38m, of which $35m is financed by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) under the High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) Grant. The State of Maine contributed the remaining funds for the project.
Contractors involved with Maine’s Downeaster expansion project
The construction of Downeaster expansion is being managed by NNEPRA. The engineering contractor for the project is Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (VHB). The labour forces for the construction works are being provided by Pan Am Railways. Construction of passenger platforms and drainage elements was contracted to MaineDOT.
The contract to replace the continuously welded rail (CWR) track materials was awarded to LB Foster. The new tie plates are provided by Unitrac. The contract to provide new spikes and anchors was awarded to Harmer Steel Products. Rail ties are provided by Perma Treat and ballast by Pan Am.
NNEPRA purchased more than $31.6m worth of goods and services from more than 48 different companies for the expansion project.