Augusta Lower Road

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Re: Augusta Lower Road

Postby MEC407 » Tue Jan 12, 2016 8:42 am

That's a very interesting and informative thread. Thanks for the link, Dick!
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Re: Augusta Lower Road

Postby b&m 1566 » Tue Jan 12, 2016 9:50 am

Dick H wrote:Discussion of ballasted railroad bridges here:
http://forums.railfan.net/forums.cgi?bo ... 1111672974


Thank you for sharing that.
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Re: Augusta Lower Road

Postby Cosakita18 » Sun Feb 28, 2016 3:46 pm

https://www.centralmaine.com/2016/02/26 ... r-augusta/

An article from the Kennebec Journal discussing new plans for economic development in Augusta mentions passenger rail as a part of the "comprehensive plan" for the city.

"the projects outlined in the plan carry a price tag of $1.5 billion and include big-ticket items such as a new Veterans Affairs hospital, a passenger rail extension that runs through Augusta to Waterville, investments in advanced manufacturing industrial development and training and mixed-use urban development that will create higher population density in Augusta’s center..."

Good to see that city leaders in central Maine are still pushing a passenger rail expansion up the lower road, even though this is nothing more than a statement of interest.
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Re: Augusta Lower Road

Postby gokeefe » Sun Feb 28, 2016 8:59 pm

Cosakita18 wrote:Good to see that city leaders in central Maine are still pushing a passenger rail expansion up the lower road, even though this is nothing more than a statement of interest.


They're getting some great advice. :-D
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Re: Augusta Lower Road

Postby gokeefe » Tue Mar 29, 2016 7:42 pm

I was not previously aware of this but found it interesting that when I bumped in to a 1960 Maine Central Passenger Timetable the schedule seemed to show that service through Lewiston had already been fully terminated by this date. My understanding was that service through Lewiston ran until the end but this schedule seems to show the Lower Road as the sole passenger route through central Maine at a fairly early month in 1960.
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Re: Augusta Lower Road

Postby gokeefe » Thu May 19, 2016 2:44 pm

Maine Rail Group held a summit of sorts at the Senator in Augusta. Here is the reporting from the Kennebec Journal.

AUGUSTA — From the outset of Tuesday’s Maine passenger rail meeting, Richard Rudolph, of the Maine Rail Group, was clear about what he wanted — support to form a stakeholders group charged with doing whatever it can to return passenger rail service to central Maine, particularly by identifying the potential economic benefits.


I am going to say right from the outset that I think MRG's approach has several fundamental flaws but the biggest of all of these is that they do not seek to build a political consensus in favor of additional passenger rail serving Lewiston-Auburn, Waterville and Augusta (in addition to Gardiner and Winthrop). This "go it alone" approach is the reason why they will continue to fail in their efforts to see passenger rail service extended to Augusta.

The second mistake, and this one is pretty big too, is the sense of "all or nothing" fiscal recklessness perhaps best illustrated by this statement:

“It doesn’t matter which route is chosen,” Sutton said. “The important thing is to get a system up and running as fast as possible.”

Decisions such as those involved in running a line and managing passengers can’t be made individually or in a vacuum, he said. If Lewiston and Auburn are successful in securing rail service, he said, it will bring along the other projects.


This kind of thinking is why these proposals have not moved forward one inch over the past 25 years that Maine Rail Group has been advocating on behalf of the former Maine Central "Lower Road" between Brunswick and Augusta.
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Re: Augusta Lower Road

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Thu May 19, 2016 5:21 pm

There will not be forked routes to both Lewiston and Brunswick/Augusta.
There will not be forked routes to both Lewiston and Brunswick/Augusta.
There will not be forked routes to both Lewiston and Brunswick/Augusta.
. . .no matter how many times this is spoken of in public statements like it's destiny.


  • Amtrak has zero, nada, zilch native interest in running forked routes to such teeny-tiny destinations north of Portland. None whatsoever. They are not starting from a place of "inertia of enthusiasm" when Brunswick ridership remains soft and far out-of-sync with Portland growth. Amtrak needs to have their socks knocked off by a comprehensive plan to recover the Brunswick fumble in order to be talked into entertaining this idea. "Dig downward to Augusta, or Lewiston, or both and we'll be out of the hole in no time!" is not going to convert an active skeptic.
  • Maine is not Virginia. Maine is not even Connecticut. A case for forking has to be backed up by hard demographics. Too many other states have better numbers they can more readily show to build their cases for a forked route.
  • Maine needs to understand what it is, what the difference is between Portland and not-Portland, and make a case rooted in what it is. With solid, testable juxtaposition of how Portland mutually supports not-Portland (and vice versa), and Portland + not-Portland mutually supports BOSTON. Not by pretending that demographic 'intangibles' somehow give it de facto parity with other states' real population math.
  • A pre-existing route with very successful Portland launch 15 years ago does not give them everlasting superhuman 'wag the dog' leverage over Amtrak to make all their dreams come true. Not when the Brunswick extension still underperforms and NNEPRA let OTP go splat for a whole season by forgetting to schedule on-time cycled tie replacement they knew 10 years prior would be due. Being a PRIAA member state doesn't come with diplomatic immunity from inexcusable brain farts counting against one's future chances.


  • The alphabet-soup agencies can't afford to bring in somebody not-named-Amtrak to run it for them.
  • The alphabet-soup agencies can't afford to pay Amtrak a big enough pile of money to make them stop holding their nose and run it.
  • The alphabet-soup agencies can't objectively prove to Amtrak that they are deserving of the large attention and charity share of running a forked route to such teeny-tiny destinations when their own New England neighbors 80 miles to the west in Vermont are putting on a masterful clinic on how to get brand new train service up and running QUICKLY, CHEAPLY, inseparably bound to revenue-generating freight upgrades, and with enough sustainable self-funding stepped out far enough in advance that they need not ask the feds for much in the way of material help to cross the finish line. Vermont is even teenier and tinier than Maine, but they're out-hustling the national field and playing to win with extreme focus and discipline; they've made it impossible for the feds and Amtrak to ignore their efforts. Why this direct comparison still does not seem to register to planning institutions 80 miles to the east continues to baffle and disappoint.


  • There is no chance for even ONE service extension if Maine can't be bothered to look outside its borders, understand what other projects it's competing with for federal help, understand what other demographics it's competing with for federal help, and understand what kind of disciplined case they have to make to prevail over such fierce competition for resources.
  • There is no chance for even ONE service extension if Maine can't be bothered to plan every passenger rail initiative like its very life depended on ironclad synergistic, reciprocal, mutually-supporting freight upgrades that contribute immediate revenue for helping offset the operating subsidy and lift all boats with the same rising tide. See: Western Route, laser-like focus on upgrades of. BEFORE getting miles ahead of themselves with verbal diarrhea about sprawling expansion up north.
  • There is no chance for even ONE service extension if Maine's multi-headed, multi-mouthed planning institutions can't get on the same page, pick a lane and drive in it, stay on-point, stop contradicting themselves, stop letting short attention spans get the better of them, stop letting their uncensored internal monologues undercut their own messaging. Talking in great quantity but without focus makes them easier, not harder, to ignore. See the Vermont example of how talking softly but letting demonstrable results speak volumes gets results. Less talking, more doing. Start doing things to the infrastructure today that pave the way for greater rewards 5, 7, 10 years from now. Chase goals internally instead of just stating them externally. Walk the talk.




Seriously...work smarter, or just don't bother.
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Re: Augusta Lower Road

Postby trainsinmaine » Thu May 19, 2016 6:55 pm

Thank you, F-line, for a very well reasoned and articulate post. Unfortunately, the state of mind that you've addressed with regard to Maine transportation issues is not unique to that field --- it's endemic to almost everything that goes on in the state.
There is very little vision, very little willingness to change, very little serious grappling with ideas that could help foster economic growth (or growth of any kind, for that matter). Most of Maine is losing population. As a friend of mine has rather colorfully and trenchantly put it, "Eventually there'll be only two people left, standing there, scratching their heads and saying to each other, "Wha' happened?" Then the day will come when one will s--t the bed and the other will turn out the light."

Pardon my cynicism.

No, on second thought, don't.
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Re: Augusta Lower Road

Postby gokeefe » Thu May 19, 2016 7:23 pm

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:Seriously...work smarter, or just don't bother.


That's exactly how I feel. Despite the fact that I disagree about forked routes, and yes I agree you have plenty of reason to argue against them.

Regardless the answer is Waterville not terminating in Augusta (if anything ever).
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Re: Augusta Lower Road

Postby Mikejf » Fri May 20, 2016 6:06 am

No more passengers than will be generated, a bus would work better serving L/A shuttling passengers to meet the trains. Too much has been invested in Brunswick to not use it.
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Re: Augusta Lower Road

Postby BM6569 » Fri May 20, 2016 8:57 am

gokeefe wrote:
F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:Seriously...work smarter, or just don't bother.


That's exactly how I feel. Despite the fact that I disagree about forked routes, and yes I agree you have plenty of reason to argue against them.

Regardless the answer is Waterville not terminating in Augusta (if anything ever).


If amtrak is going to be extended, Augusta and Waterville are the next logical places. Have a shuttle from Lewiston to Portland if they actually get to that stage of the process.

Brunswick is close enough to Portland that some people may still drive there to catch the train? Get it farther north and you may catch some more riders. Not that many though.

I agree that all these expansion groups and agencies need to get their act together if they are serious about it. Work together and get organized.
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Re: Augusta Lower Road

Postby BandA » Sat May 21, 2016 1:18 am

Is there rush hour congestion in Augusta or Waterville area, and/or is the RR a superior route to the highways?
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Re: Augusta Lower Road

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Sat May 21, 2016 6:58 am

BandA wrote:Is there rush hour congestion in Augusta or Waterville area, and/or is the RR a superior route to the highways?


I-95 isn't very congested up there (though I can't speak for the back-roads like US 1). The problem is more that 95 and I-295 really suck coming out of Portland because of all the growth down there. Lewiston/Auburn and Freeport/Brunswick have legitimately painful commutes to/from the south at peak rush hour, and 95 is pretty yucky coming north out of Saco/Biddeford to the 295 split. But that's a fundamentally a 9-to-5 commuter problem that Amtrak corridor service doesn't address in any meaningful way. And not a realistic solve with commuter rail service because Portland-proper still isn't big enough, and the suburbs not big enough, to float meaningfully frequent-enough CR schedules that would actually draw significant traffic off the expressways. Unlike other New England states who have proposed commuter rail systems that serve their largest cities' commuter needs adequately concentrating resources to ONE schedule on ONE line, you can't solve Portland commuter traffic without attacking I-95/US 202 and I-295/US 1 in tandem. Rail service along one Greater Portland highway corridor isn't going to save congestion along the other Greater Portland highway corridor like singular commuter rail mainlines spanning I-95 both sides of Greater Providence, I-91 the length of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield corridor, and US 3/I-93 Nashua-Manchester-Concord on the Capitol Corridor act as permanent killshots in those other states. It's just the way the highway corridors line up with the geography.

Rock and a hard place: Portland only gets a permanent fix for traffic with one line coming from 95/Western Route from the south splitting into 2 lines along 95/295 to the north. And Maine doesn't have the demographics to support the frequencies required for splitting a schedule. Worse, the contrast between Portland's economy and the rest of the state's has sharpened into a near-permanent condition where Portland is the revenue donor that has to float the expenses for the entirety of the rest of the state. In even sharper relief than the trio of Capitol Corridor cities floats the entirety of the rest of New Hampshire. But as far as infrastructure spending is concerned, it's not possible to let Cumberland County take all the spoils while everything else is allowed to go to the weeds. The loggers up in Aroostook County can't function if every MEDOT bridge their trucks run over gets tagged with deferred-maintenance posted weight limits--forever--so I-295 can get loosened up by frequent commuter rail service. Mouths still have to be fed, or else even Portland's bustling economy won't support the house of cards it has to carry on its back.


--------------------------------------------------


That doesn't mean there's no future for extended Downeaster service. As I said, Vermont is putting on a clinic on how to substantially expand intrastate Amtrak service without possessing any anchor metropolitan area whatsoever. They're doing it being extremely disciplined, making their funding case based on self-funded work already completed (not just studied or talked about) to make a compelling show of inertia-of-motion, and 'hiding' their passenger pitches inside freight funding with an immediate revenue payoff to increase their funding chances and mitigate the risk. For example, they already got the grant and finished the track work on NECR from St. Albans to the Canadian border for the Montrealer restoration...but if the Montrealer restoration hits a significant snag or never happens at all NECR is taking advantage of the uprates for 286K carloads, faster speeds, and newly-protected grade crossings with real revenue increases pumped into the local economy right now today. That's how it's done in a small state; run an airtight ship, and make it impossible for the feds to ignore an effort well-executed.

For Maine, the answer is freight freight freight freight freight. No rail infrastructure investment they can ever make matters as much as double-stacks on the Western Route. Portland already has a DS lane out of St. Lawrence & Atlantic + PAR Danville Jct.-Rigby, and Waterville already has one out of Northern Maine Jct. They don't matter--they pathetically don't matter--because the shipping lane from the Class I carriers in Worcester County, MA dwarfs all other lanes to such cosmic degree, and kneecaps them to such cosmic degree when those northern lanes can't network with the only lane that matters. So why isn't MEDOT actively funding bridge raisings and track undercuts on the Western Route? Why aren't they pre-emptively adding more double-track between South Berwick and South Portland so growth of Downeaster frequencies stays ahead of the exploding length and frequency of intermodal trains coming in 10-12 years when MassDOT and NHDOT finish their share of clearance upgrades? Why are they wasting their time funding double-track on the MEC mainline around Royal Jct. when the congestion problem up there is inefficient freight ops canning out-of-service trains on all available passing sidings? Why throw money on the ground there instead of addressing WHY freight ops out of Rigby and Waterville Yards are so clumsy that Pan Am has to bogart the mainline for a parking lot? If they want demonstrable results to make a passenger funding case to the feds, they'd be putting on a "Show Me" clinic with Western Route return-on-investment and making a freight revenue case for further passenger investment. Including things like how reinvestment in the efficiency of the freight yards buoys the Brunswick Branch by sweeping out that parking lot of canned trains that's eating all the track capacity...instead of simply buying Pan Am a longer parking lot at Royal. Vermont can successfully do this with NECR and VRS, Class III's with absolutely silly-smaller lanes than Pan Am out of Massachusetts. Why does short attention-span theatre prevent Maine from doing the same on an orders-of-magnitude bigger freight lane?

Similarly, why is this distraction about forking passenger routes completely ignoring the freight needs between Portland and Waterville? Freight volumes to Northern Maine have collapsed with the paper industry's collapse. Freight movements are extremely inefficient. They have to get way, way more efficient for the more meager north-of-Portland intermodal potential to fill some of the void of paper traffic that's never coming back. The MEC Back Road is in deplorable state-of-repair from the southern vicinity of Auburn out to Waterville, with absolute zero potential on-line business on that desolate stretch to help offset the cost of repairing it. Penny-pinching Pan Am isn't going to invest in it, and the future company that buys out Pan Am has a brutally tough business case to make for self-funding beyond the tolerable minimum state-of-repair when traffic only has so much potential to rebound out of its current hole. It's going to be up to the state to pay the balance that actually raises the revenue ceiling.

Why are they not doing that? Lewiston on one hand split with Brunswick/Augusta on the other doesn't meaningfully move the needle on a complete freight corridor to Waterville. It self-defeatingly divides and conquers itself. ESPECIALLY when all this forking extracurricular steals focus from the Western Route. If Portland's economy has to float the whole rest of the state on its back, then Portland's premier freight lane has to float the rest of the state's freight rail network on its back. This isn't rocket science. Every brain cell distracted by north-of-Portland to south-of-Portland's demerit by stuff like double-tracking in the wrong place for the wrong reasons is wasting time. Want to make a case for northward expansion? Get every ounce out of that premier passenger and freight lane to the south so pent-up demand starts compelling serious investment in a Portland-Waterville freight lane with enough ROI to float a passenger extension subsidy on its back. It won't be with a forked route; it can only be by going all-in on one corridor, and coming to grips with the fact that there's only enough cumulative traffic for one corridor. That would tend to favor extension out of Brunswick where fewer route miles and less support infrastructure need to be upgraded, and where first step to Augusta closes the gap enough for Pan Am & successors to make airtight self-funding case for doing the remaining miles to Waterville themselves. If Downeaster to Waterville has to be a Phase II to keep Augusta within-cost...then the track to Waterville will be ready for it with little additional fuss and paying itself back with freight revenue. Just like NECR north of St. Albans is ready for the Montrealer while earning more freight revenue today than it did yesterday.

There's no chance of getting over that hump by starting all over again with a second fork that doesn't get far enough for momentum to coast it over the finish line in Waterville. Or abandon the sunk cost to Brunswick to go all-in to Auburn instead. So what if the Back Road has to get abandoned from Leeds Jct. to Waterville for a rail trail because thru traffic switched to the upgraded Lower Road; the mainline to Downtown Auburn's never going away, and St. Lawrence & Atlantic's Portland-Quebec lane becomes a significantly more strategic complement to that all-important Portland-Massachusetts lane if the Western Route goes bigtime intermodal. Figure it out after the topmost priorities are taken care of. Near-term bus shuttles are plenty useful. A properly stabilized state economy leaves the door permanently ajar for real I-95/I-295 commuter rail in a couple decades when they can better afford it. That Montreal tourist hotel train proposal keeps hanging around if Portland freight grows enough to justify consistently good state-of-repair on the SLR corridor. And so on.



WORK SMARTER and good things will happen. Examples abound of this right under their noses. It's there for the taking if they want to roll up their sleeves and work the punchlist from top priority on down with patience and discipline. But pretending the state is bigger than it really is to convince themselves that they deserve nice things and can talk talk talk about deserving nice things is not how Maine's planning institutions will ever accomplish something. That's the gut-check the state...and this balancing act of sustaining all that is Portland with all that is not-Portland...is facing. Do they want to look that challenge in the eye and work the limited options they have towards a goal?

It's not clear today that they truly want to.
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Re: Augusta Lower Road

Postby MEC407 » Sat May 21, 2016 9:49 am

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:So why isn't MEDOT actively funding bridge raisings and track undercuts on the Western Route? Why aren't they pre-emptively adding more double-track between South Berwick and South Portland so growth of Downeaster frequencies stays ahead of the exploding length and frequency of intermodal trains coming in 10-12 years when MassDOT and NHDOT finish their share of clearance upgrades? Why are they wasting their time funding double-track on the MEC mainline around Royal Jct. when the congestion problem up there is inefficient freight ops canning out-of-service trains on all available passing sidings? Why throw money on the ground there instead of addressing WHY freight ops out of Rigby and Waterville Yards are so clumsy that Pan Am has to bogart the mainline for a parking lot?


Give it a few years. Our present governor thinks everything south of Lewiston is "Northern Massachusetts," and to say that he looks at that part of the state with disdain and loathing would be the understatement of the millennium. He terms out in 2018... or perhaps a bit sooner if he's offered a gig in the Trump administration.
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Re: Augusta Lower Road

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Sat May 21, 2016 1:33 pm

MEC407 wrote:
F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:So why isn't MEDOT actively funding bridge raisings and track undercuts on the Western Route? Why aren't they pre-emptively adding more double-track between South Berwick and South Portland so growth of Downeaster frequencies stays ahead of the exploding length and frequency of intermodal trains coming in 10-12 years when MassDOT and NHDOT finish their share of clearance upgrades? Why are they wasting their time funding double-track on the MEC mainline around Royal Jct. when the congestion problem up there is inefficient freight ops canning out-of-service trains on all available passing sidings? Why throw money on the ground there instead of addressing WHY freight ops out of Rigby and Waterville Yards are so clumsy that Pan Am has to bogart the mainline for a parking lot?


Give it a few years. Our present governor thinks everything south of Lewiston is "Northern Massachusetts," and to say that he looks at that part of the state with disdain and loathing would be the understatement of the millennium. He terms out in 2018... or perhaps a bit sooner if he's offered a gig in the Trump administration.


I dunno. The current State Rail Plan filed with the FRA is completely incoherent about priority level of Western Route clearances. Even New Hampshire, who are loathe to spend anything on infrastructure that doesn't involve widening a toll road, bullseyed their 9 required bridge modifications for PAR double-stacks as a "DUH!" plain-English top priority in their reciprocal State Rail Plan. NHDOT...shiftless NHDOT...gets it while the state most dependent on this project talks with a mouth full of marbles. Yeah they might snap into gear when it's time to get moving on their bridges, but they're being spazzes about it right now and that's symptomatic of the whole systemic problem planners in the state are having maintaining basic focus and grasp on prioritization.
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