Amtrak expanding

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am1 Amtrak expanding

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The start of work on a $35 million extension of Amtrak’s Downeaster passenger train from Portland to Brunswick was marked by the delivery of steel rails Monday.

Gov. John Baldacci was joined by officials from the Federal Railroad Administration, Pan Am Railways and the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority in Brunswick for the formal kickoff of the project, which calls for upgrading about 30 miles of rail line between Portland and Brunswick. Passenger trains should operating on the track by the end of 2012, officials said.

The Downeaster now runs from Boston to Portland. Extending it to Freeport and Brunswick will attract more tourists and reduce congestion and pollution by getting cars and trucks off the road, Baldacci said. It will also encourage development and stimulate job creation, he said.  “Enhancing our infrastructure has never been more important,” he said.

The Downeaster, which began service in 2001, carried nearly 475,000 passengers in the past fiscal year.  The expansion will boost the number of riders by 36,000 a year, said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.

On Monday, 50 strings of rail – each 1,650 feet long – were delivered by rail to Brunswick. Rail installation should begin in the next couple of weeks.

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