Crazy Transit Pitches (Maine Edition)

Dr. StrangeHat

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I guess this is as good of any thread to pitch my crazy, never-going-to-happen-but-still-fun-to-discuss idea for light rail in Portland.

Below is a map of the routes I would propose. It's pretty simple (I think):

Green Line (Westbrook Loop)
Route: Running along the Mountain Division line, transitioning to the abandoned Worcester, Nashua and Rochester Railroad line running parallel to Warren Ave, transitioning to the existing Portland Terminal line, where it then transitions to new track running alongside the existing Pan Am track (so as to not interfere with freight or Downeaster trains), transitioning to new tracks along western Commercial Street, transitioning to new tracks running down the center of Commercial Street, transitioning to new standard gauge track along the old Grand Trunk corridor on the East End, transitioning to new track running under Tukey's Bridge and along the old Portland & Rochester line corridor in Bayside and eventually connecting back to the Mountain Division Line
Stations: PTC, Rock Row, Cumberland Mills (next to Brea Lu), Riverside Street (next to Evergreen CU), Bishop Street (at UNE parking lot), Reed Street, Walton Street, Woodford Street, Brighton Ave, Union Station Plaza, Mercy Hospital,
Hobson's Landing, DiMillo's, Casco Bay Ferry Terminal, Ocean Gateway, East End Beach, East Bayside, Bayside, Deering Oaks/Fitzpatrick/Hadlock

Red Line (Falmouth Loop)
Route: Starting on Commercial Street, running on the same track as the Green Line, running over a re-built Back Cove trestle, transitioning to the St. Lawrence & Atlantic corridor, then transitioning to new track running along the southern side of the Falmouth spur, transitioning to new track running alongside the existing Pan Am track (so as not to interfere with freight or Downeaster trains and the same track for a stretch of the Green Line), transitioning back to Commercial Street
Stations: Hobson's Landing, DiMillo's, Casco Bay Ferry Terminal, Ocean Gateway, East End Beach, East Deering, Lunt Road, Bucknam Road, Riverside Street/Davis Farm Road, Allen Ave/Bruno's, Reed Street, Walton Street, Woodford Street, Brighton Ave, Union Station Plaza, Mercy Hospital

Orange Line (Forest Ave Loop) - If this whole idea is a stretch, this part is REALLY a stretch, and probably better served by bus anyway
Route: Street-running down the center of Forest Ave, somehow transitioning to Green/Red line track at Woodford's corner (maybe via Lincoln Street or Revere Street), somehow transitioning to street-running along Park Ave near Hadlock, somehow transitioning back to street-running along Forest Ave (would probably have to cut through Deering Oaks)
Stations: Bedford Street/USM, Dartmouth Street, Lincoln Street, Brighton Ave, Hadlock Field/Portland Expo, Deering Oaks

Fun little exercise, right? Right? :unsure:🤣

Portland_Light_Rail_Idea.png
 

markhb

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Other than the Orange Line, the biggest practical issue I see is that the P&R never went under the Turnpike; it was cut off there so you're looking at a new, potentially 25-foot high Turnpike overpass transitioning onto the new Warren Ave. bridge that's probably 10 feet lower than this would have to be. I know the standard for new railroad overpasses is 25 feet of clearance but I don't know if that also applies to light rail.
 

Dr. StrangeHat

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Other than the Orange Line, the biggest practical issue I see is that the P&R never went under the Turnpike; it was cut off there so you're looking at a new, potentially 25-foot high Turnpike overpass transitioning onto the new Warren Ave. bridge that's probably 10 feet lower than this would have to be. I know the standard for new railroad overpasses is 25 feet of clearance but I don't know if that also applies to light rail.
Yeah, that would then present challenges with the crossing at Riverside. You'd probably have to go elevated above Riverside too.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Here's some practical considerations to ponder, which I also pitched in this pair of posts earlier this year:
  • The 11 grade crossings on the PAR mainline north of 295--all in heavily-residential areas--suuuuuuck. And are really, really going to suck if/when CSX takes over from FAILroad Pan Am and starts running some seriously fucking long intermodal trains between Worcester and Auburn while Downeaster adds 6th round-trip frequency and beyond.
  • There's a glut of unused/underutilized ROW's burning a hole in various pockets that could fashion potential bypasses:
    • MEDOT-owned ex- Grand Trunk/Canadian National mainline, Danville Jct. Auburn to Ferry Terminal. Includes Yarmouth Jct. crossing of Downeaster route (with 2 "active" wye legs and 1 derelict but extant wye leg), the burnt-out Back Cove swing bridge, and the Maine Narrow Gauge Museum tracks to the Ferry Terminal. Danville-Back Cove still nominally active with no operator, as St. Lawrence & Atlantic let its trackage rights expire after the final baked beans delivery 4 years ago to the Burnham & Morrill factory next to the Cove.
    • MEDOT-landbanked Union Branch, abandoned by PAR late-1990's. Splits from the mainline after Congress St./old Union Station, following 295 on its shoulder out to Exit 6, and traveling on the sidewalk of Kennebec St. and out on the Bayside Trail where it used to connect to the Grand Trunk by the swing bridge. When Portland Terminal Company was still in operation until 1981 shuttling loads between the Boston & Maine, Maine Central, and Canadian National yards in the city this was the primary link-up between carriers.
    • PAR-owned Bishop St. Industrial Track. Kinda-sorta active for PAR from Deering Jct. at the north tip of the grade crossing cluster from hell to a wall of weeds where it ends before I-95, which severed it in the middle back in the 1970's. Picks back up west of 95 as an out-of-service spur off the Mountain Branch ("backdoor" loading pad to SAPPI Westbrook paper mill, while the active local jobs take the "front door" switch via the other side of the river into SAPPI's yard); customers used to exist on this western spur as close to 95 as Riverside St.
  • MEDOT has long wanted to add-a-lane I-295 to 6 lanes between Scarborough split with I-95 and Falmouth spur...ever since the two highways swapped numbers 16 years ago. But they've never been able to wad up a package worth pulling the trigger for in such a funding-limited state.

There's an obvious synergy here.
  1. Dig deep for budgeting the 295 widening project. BUT...goose its top-line credentials by making it a multimodal highway + rail project that aims to re-route the PAR main away from the grade crossing hell-cluster so there's a kingmaker payoff for the expense.
  2. As part of the widening, reactivate the Union Branch where it parallels 295 to Forest Ave., then extend on the 295 shoulder between Forest Ave. and Back Cove. Full grade separation with bolted-on rail overpasses next to the widened highway overpasses @ Forest Ave., Preble St., Franklin St., Washington Ave. connector ramps. Move various exit ramps out of the way accordingly (e.g. compact the cloverleaf sprawl @ Forest). Build a rail deck on the widened Back Cove bridge. 295 already has a center median to eat for the add-a-lane, but it also has fairly generous buffers on the sides so no new land acquisition would be required to fit a widened and dual-moded corridor through the existing property lines.
  3. Immediately after crossing the cove, send the rails through the backlot of the baked beans plant connecting to the extant "nominally active" Grand Trunk main where it passes under 295, completing the bypass connection.
  4. Relocate PTC to Union Station site, eliminate Congress St. grade crossing with rail overpass. Quad-track the line from Fore River wye through "new" Union Station (L-R: 2 outer freight passers + 2 passenger tracks sandwiching a full-high island platform in quasi-Worcester analogue), and continue quad up Union Branch to approx. Forest Ave. Shrink to double-track by the new combo road/rail Back Cove bridge.
  5. Modest upgrades to Grand Trunk main: double-tracking; reactivation of SE leg of Yarmouth Jct. wye for Downeaster; freight upgrades for double-stack clearances + 286,000 lb. weight rating, Back Cove-Danville; poss. grade crossing elimination with 295 widening @ Lunt Rd., Bucknam Rd.; poss. repositioning closer to 295 shoulder in Falmouth for residential buffer.
  6. *Provision* for a junction/wye right before the new Back Cove crossing to connect by the sewage plant & Eastern Promenade trail to connect to the Ferry Terminal (i.e. changing the Narrow Gauge Museum track back to standard guage and connect across the treatment plant to the new route). This can allow passenger stops/reverses @ the Ferry Terminal, and new (if limited) sources of freight transloads @ the Schooner Terminal without needing to ever re-lay street-running track up Commercial St. from the Pan Am intermodal yard that sits underneath Casco Bay Bridge.
Now...shift the Downeaster to the new routing. Bang-a-right at reanimated Yarmouth Jct. SE wye leg for Freeport, Brunswick, & beyond with possible Falmouth infill stop on the new route. Portland-terminating runs can potentially snake around to the Ferry Terminal as an "extra" frill before going out-of-service. Track miles are comparable to current route, but MUCH straighter and faster. Also re-route all thru freight Rigby Yard points-north via here. Straight-thru @ Yarmouth Jct. to Auburn/Danville Jct.and the existing PAR main to Waterville & Bangor, and outright abandon the Royal Jct.-Danville Jct. segment of PAR main that has no freight customers or passenger service. Recycle the hardware elsewhere on the system, and lay down a nice rail trail; that route is completely 100% duplicate. The old mainline from Union Station to Yarmouth Jct. used by the current Downeaster stays in-service for only the extremely sparse Portland locals scooping up biz around Deering Jct. and the Bishop St. Industrial Track (for however long that lasts), for a modicum of routing flex on the local freight return trip to Rigby, and as emergency re-routes for thru freight and Downeaster. Other than that it's busted down to total secondary status...signal system possibly up for retirement if it's truly that little-used with no foreseeable follow-up reuse.

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

The quad-track on the rebuilt Union Branch next to 295 keeps freight vs. pax traffic clear, and the close paralleling of 295 is MUCH safer for Hazmat loads and much less noise-invasive to abutters than the current freight main. There are no longer any mainline public grade crossings whatsoever left in Portland. And only 3 least-concern private driveway crossings in the City via the new GT main re-route: the B&M beans factory, a radio transmitter tower service driveway, and WMGX-FM station driveway. The route consolidation greatly improves MEDOT's ownership/maintenance portfolio by consolidating redundancies/inefficiencies and focusing freight+pax corridor investment where it's got utterly max ROI. As part of the 295 sell-job and for best-case ROI, big MEDOT emphasis on encouraging rail-to-truck intermodal @ Portland/South Portland (Rigby Yard + PAR "Yard 8" under Casco Bay Bridge + Turner Island RR) and Lewiston-Auburn Airport (existing intermodal ramp @ interchange of PAR + St. Lawrence & Atlantic...CSX licking its chops to expand here via PAR acquisition).

Longer-term you can weigh outright disposal of the bypassed route via conversion to streetcar if the Deering Jct. customers drop off. Or...(per my previous posts)....entertain some crazier transit pitches like reconnecting the 95-severed ends of the Bishop St. track and running rapid Urban Rail-like "loop services" Union Station-Westbrook-Union Station + Union Station-Yarmouth Jct.-Union Station, sprinkled in with Union Station-Ferry Terminal appendages as needed. xMU vehicles, diesel or electric depending on what works best at the time for MEDOT...and assume that the Union/GT relocation is pre-built clearance-compatible for double-stacks under electrification. Those RR-based services would at least would be able to make full use of the Union Station linchpin by sticking with that mode and the Urban Rail template rather than looking for a complete mode switch to streetcar. But there's essentially nothing holding down the old Downtown-Yarmouth main, Bishop St. track, and Mountain Branch for long-term freight once the big Union/295/GT relocation is complete. SAPPI Paper + one propane dealer on the Mountain are barely holding down 2-day-a-week service; SAPPI has largely converted to rail-agnostic pulp at that plant so are no longer worth setting the table around. The Bishop St./Deering Jct. flotsam is too zit-tiny to be long for this world, and it's unlikely that a properly double+ tracked main next to 295 would be disaster-vulnerable enough to truly need an always-open bypass on the old route. So you *could* some day rip those appendages clean off for streetcar terraforming. Depends on how you want your network integration to work. xMU's via Union Station 'circuiting' does have certain advantages for "everywhere-to-everywhere" network cleanliness, and you'd be able to work in pingbacks to/from the Ferry Terminal as part of those patterns. So think of it as maximizing future options.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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Here's the MS Paint renders of what I'm talking about. . .

1. Downtown Portland
POR1.jpg


295 widening project limits begin at Scarborough split with I-95, rail project limits begin at north tip of Fore River wye. Union Station takes up residence on old site, with rail embankment + grade separation of Congress St. PTC gets eliminated. We're doing 4 tracks here because of extreme traffic levels pinging between closeby junctions at not-fast speeds: 2 freight + 2 pax. If Union Station needs expansion some land-taking of the County Jail parking lot can fan stuff out further to the west for fitting another platform track. Note that NNEPRA already proposes re-adding the north wye to Mountain Jct. to aid the PTC reverse. Would be possible to add a facing Union Station platform on that leg of the wye for tie-ins of future Westbrook service.

Quad-track ends at split with reactivated Union Branch, where old vs. new alignments diverge. Tri-track continues some distance further on Union Branch for traffic sorting. Old route gets busted down to secondary status (local intra-Portland freight and emergencies). Can consider claiming that + Mountain Branch for streetcar if all local freight dies out...or repurpose for Urban Rail 'circuit' service on the current mode.

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2. The 295 "Multimodalway"

POR2.jpg


Note the no-good/godawful grade crossing clusters that take Downeasters and all manner of freights (including HAZMAT loads) 24/7...that's what we're doing this for. We restore the in-situ Union Branch to Exit 6 next to widened 295. From there (where it diverges into the MEDOT landbank) we continue it bolted to the side of 295. Note all bridges widened for the combo project, and note the compacting of Exit 6 from sprawly cloverleaf to minimal-profile diamond. Sewage Plant Rd. north of Plowman St. needs to be sacrificed to fit the ROW next to 295 for the Back Cove crossing; replace with new driveway off North St. dead-end. Tri-track goes to double-track past Exit 6 when space narrows. Back Cove highway bridge significantly widened to max footprint on the approaches for fitting widened 295 + rail line. Rail line swings out through B&M baked beans factory parking lot abutting north side of Cove to join the 'nominally' MEDOT-active Grand Trunk main to Yarmouth Jct. (where freight + Downeasters rejoin their routes).

*OPTIONALLY* provision for a wye at Back Cove that connects around the sewage plant to the Maine Narrow Gauge Museum trackage wrapping around to the Ferry Terminal. This used to be Canadian National's port trackage before the swing bridge burned down in the 1980's; the Narrow Gauge Museum simply re-spiked the rail to the existing ties to change the gauge. Change it back, buff out the ex-CN/current Narrow Gauge yard as a passenger layover + freight staging spot for transloads @ State Pier next door to Ferry Terminal (note the ex-CN tracks still buried in the pier). Put platform here for peak-season Ferry Terminal wraparounds of Portland-terminating Downeasters, and future MEDOT commuter rail considerations. Build this spur off the provision whenever deemed necessary (no time limit).

Note also that the Bayside Trail, which doesn't yet stretch across Back Cove, can potentially bridge across the river by repairing the approach spans to the burned swing bridge for a pedestrian crossing...then ramp up slightly for a fixed ped bridge over a demolished swing section (baked beans factory no longer takes boats at its loading dock due to excessive silt runoff, so Cove no longer needs navigable clearances inside the old swing).

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3. Falmouth

POR3.jpg


Continue along a rehabbed Grand Trunk. Double-track, fix freight clearances for 20'6" double-stack (23' if future-proofing for 25 kV electrification), fix freight weight rating for 286,000 lbs., add at least 1 set of crossovers for passing meets of Downeaster v. freights. 1 curve modification deleting a swing-out towards a residential area (19th c. customer siding residue???), running ROW closer to 295 instead. 1 road grade separation lumped in with 295 widening. 295 widening project limits end at Falmouth Spur exit.

Note location of Bishop St. Industrial Track freight cluster, where bridging over the broken I-95 midsection (out-of-picture) can potentially enable Union Station-Westbrook-Union Station 'circuit' service. Note how both old & new routings run very widely parallel to Yarmouth potentially enabling future Union Station-Yarmouth Jct.-Union Station 'circuit' service.

Unlikely there's any Amtrak demand for a Falmouth infill stop on the Downeaster, but local commuter rail would be a different story.

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4. en route to Yarmouth
POR4.jpg


Nothing much going on here except in-situ improvements and double-tracking, as we're past the 295 widening project limits. The Downeaster is installing a new passing siding right now for a couple miles in Falmouth. Note old vs. new routes start drawing closer as we approach Yarmouth Jct. Note that the Grand Trunk route is more miserly overall with grade crossings.

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5. Yarmouth convergence

POR5.jpg


All routes reconverge @ Yarmouth Jct. Reinstated wye leg ties the Downeaster back on its native route (the ex- Maine Central "Lower Road") to Freeport, Brunswick, and extensions beyond to Augusta/Waterville. Freight goes straight ahead on the Grand Trunk to Danville Jct. in Auburn, where it rejoins the ex- Maine Central "Back Road" / current PAR Main to Leeds/Waterville + the St. Lawrence & Atlantic main to Montreal. A redundant, customer-less, very rural segment of "Back Road" from Royal Jct. to Danville Jct. gets abandoned/scrapped for a rail trail with the switch to straight-ahead on the Grand Trunk; they both land the same exact place. Note end of project limits for ongoing Downeaster passing siding construction to Royal Jct. (I guess just rip out the second track and recycle elsewhere when the routes switch).

Yarmouth Depot is a historic Grand Trunk station building in the heart of walkable downtown. Very high-leverage Downeaster infill candidate. Single side full-high platform + freight passer should do it. Tricky cluster of grade crossings downtown, but all are in braking distance of the station stop so not huge concern. Rush hour coincident with a DE slot might be the only time you want to divert a large freight over the old/backup route choosing the Portland grade crossing minefield over the Yarmouth crossing minefield.

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

That's it. As stated prior, it behooves MEDOT as a funding-constrained state to maximize its investment in a single "super-heavy" traffic corridor through Portland rather than have their meager budgeting divided-and-conquered by less-efficient redundancies. That goes for Union Station vs. the inefficient PTC reverse in addition to wasting a lot of internal bandwidth navel-gazing at longshot studies for the Mountain Branch, Grand Trunk, "Back Road"/Lewiston-Auburn vs. "Lower Road"/Brunswick-Augusta, and other marginal rail prospects famished for any truly galvanizing service hooks. The rail network needs cleaning up if it's ever going to swing with enough heft, and that long-needed 295 widening needs a major burnishing of its top-line ROI if it's ever to pay for its large bottom-line cost (and avoid the borrow-on-margin sins of their short-sighted Granite State neighbor's I-93 widening). Doing the shotgun rail corridor and promoting its traffic-controlling passenger and intermodal freight bona fides certainly helps a ton. So does the reopening of Ferry Terminal/State Pier rail access. If Union Station and the "Grandest Trunk" relocation pull their weight, that's then the conduit for nice accessorizing like high-frequency 'circuit' Urban Rail that's higher-leverage than linear CR to-the-'burbs, or future mode switch for the streetcar...or simply giving those beleaguered residential grade crossing clusters a big break from all the endless disruption.

But it's only going to work for their resources if they laser-like focus on the biggest possible bang of a crosstown corridor, with the most exponential reverberations to anything freight or pax connected to it.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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And here's a wider-angle view showing *potential* circuit service between Union Station and Westbrook recycling these pieces:
  1. PTC Station + NNEPRA-planned north leg of Mountain Jct. wye, which would touch Union Station -- active, approx 3/4 mi., double-track, 1 grade crossing, signalized
  2. Pan Am Mountain Branch to Seavy St., Westbrook (switch to SAPPI Paper east spur) -- active, 3.1 mi., single-track, 7 grade crossings, unsignalized
  3. PAR/Downeaster mainline (current), Portland Union Station to Deering Jct. -- active, 2.5 mi., single-track, 10 grade crossings, signalized
  4. PAR Bishop St. Industrial Track (existing mainline @ Deering Jct. to BlueLinx lumber yard adjacent I-95) -- active, 1.3 mi., single-track, 1 grade crossing, unsignalized
  5. SAPPI Paper east spur (PAR-owned) -- out-of-service/maintained, 4000 ft., single-track, 2 grade crossings, unsignalized
  6. severed midsection, Bishop St. track to SAPPI East spur -- abandoned when severed by I-95 (split PAR/MEDOT ownership???), 4750 ft., single-track, 1 grade crossing

POR-circuit.jpg


Total 'circuit' distance Union Station to Union Station is 9.7 miles, and service patterns can incorporate a wraparound to the Ferry Terminal stub platform via Union Branch on one end of the trip for +3.7 extra miles. That's roughly equivalent in length to the Fairmount Line, so envision this as Urban Rail service running clock-facing schedules to dense stop spacing with DMU/EMU vehicles. I did not take a gander on potential station sitings. Assume that any infill stations would be spartan affairs with short 3-4 car max (300-350 ft.) single side full-high platforms. There are no surviving old passenger depot facilities anywhere on this route. Work this service pattern in tandem with the 25-mile Union Station-Yarmouth Jct.-Union Station 'circuit' (and Ferry Terminal alt-flavors therein) enabled by shotgunning old + new Downeaster routes together to provide saturation inner-suburban coverage...along with whatever linear CR pattern heads southbound down the Western Route to Saco/Biddeford, etc.

The severed midsection of the Bishop St. track gets a new single-track I-95 overpass. All other necessary upgrades to current active freight-only track are in-situ: rail/surfacing, signals, grade crossings, and passing tracks where needed. This is short enough operated as a bi-directional 'circuit' to only need passing sidings at 1-2 key points for timed meets, but otherwise operate as mostly single-track. Bypassed Downeaster mainline can simply remain as-is (crummy crossings and all) since it's up to full repair as-is, but other than maybe a 2-day-a-week freight local these MEDOT 'circuit' services Union Sta.-Westbrook-Union Sta. and Union Sta-Yarmouth-Union Sta. are the only users...and all service is run on small xMU consists to stay nimble. Overall this would be a cheapie to implement because of the heavily recycled infrastructure (including reanimation of PTC as a featured intermediate stop). Maybe punt electrification dreams to another day until service is well-established given MEDOT's meager funding and fact that DMU's would perform pretty well in the interim on short-haul service.


Primary upside is that the 'circuiting' offers considerably more elastic service flex than any linear CR poke could ever hope to do. Westbrook passenger rail in particular being a marginal prospect means--despite the relative ease of touching up that short haul on the Mountain Branch--its top-line bona fides need some degree of burnishing before there's any real there-there. ^This^ is exactly the type of value-added that can close the gap and raise it from iffy prospect to cut-rate deal (esp. since you can blur the lines between the two 'circuit' flavors by working in the Ferry Terminal stub).


BTW...the Mountain Div. west to Fryeburg does not have its longshot prospects raised one iota by any of this easy plug-n'-play circuit stuff. That's still a desolate run through a rapidly-depopulating part of Maine whose project costs will easily burn a billion-dollar hole in someone's pocket for the complete/total ground-up rebuild required of a shot-to-hell railbed that hasn't been used in any form since 1989. MEDOT's already made fools of themselves time and again studying the un-studyable hoping to find something there; it ain't going to happen. Rather, look to the well-maintained St. Lawrence & Atlantic mainline to Montreal-via-Auburn (which could see a big freight surge if/when CSX buys into town) for your Portland-origin/boonies-crossing pleasure. And look to NHDOT for reconnection of the Conway Branch's out-of-service 19 miles between Ossippee and North Conway as your ski train prospect out of Downeaster's Dover, NH Station...because that studied prospect has actually got mutual freight (NH Northcoast) and passenger (Conway Scenic) interest from profitable private carriers and has pretty good incumbent track Dover-Ossippee and N. Conway-Mt. Washington to work from on both sides of the OOS midsection. You'd honestly get to Attatash Mountain faster on a booze train from Portland by taking a DE or MEDOT commuter train south to Dover then doing cross-platform transfer to Conway Scenic there rather than blowing a pornographic wad trying to get Portland-Fryeburg rehabbed to >20 MPH shape.
 
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markhb

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I'll just mention that the extra connector for the Bayside Trail is unnecessary; there is an existing connection that loops under Tukey's Bridge and comes up to connect with the Back Cove Trail sidewalk across the bridge.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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PT. 1 big-picture explainer. . .

The magnitude of CSX's likely acquisition of Pan Am (once Massachusetts system redundancies are pared out before fed approval) can't be underestimated here. They're primarily doing it for the Worcester-Portland intermodal lane, as Portland is currently at the outer edge of ideal "drayage" distance for day-shift trucking. At 250 miles +/- (somewhat less when processing drag effect from noteworthy highway traffic chokepoints) shipping starts to heavily favor rail because of the way modern trucking labor & ops costs start sailing bigtime after round-trips to/from home base exceed 1 full regular staff shift. Portland's in okay drayage range distance-wise via 495 from Worcester County, but NH rush hour really takes its pound of flesh from truck shifts and gets worse with time. So after the big Class I RR's implanted themselves in Worcester County a dozen years ago solving for the Albany-Boston via Mass Pike drayage problem, they've been licking their chops on how to utilize Portland as the next major stopover. CSX, which is sitting on ginormous cash reserves coming out of meandering period of internal restructuring (via shedding less-profitable assets), happened to be the first to strike.

This means the Worcester-Ayer + Ayer-Portland is now a red-hot intermodal prospect. First with huge influx of single-stack Trailers on Flatcar (TOFC), which Pan Am has long dabbled in but maddeningly doesn't seem to "get" at any serious business level, and then by pushing through full double-stack clearances...which was to-date a solid decade in future in the New England states' regional freight investment bucket list but now becomes five-alarm urgent. Thankfully NHDOT + MEDOT (which have both already well-studied how to do it open-shut) have fewer bridge touches combined than MassDOT, which can more easily afford it and gets a more immediately intense ROI payback from the expense.

As outflow from this the Downeaster will get full-on Positive Train Control installation because that's ironclad-required for any Class I carrier mainline, whereas Pan Am managed to beg/whine/delay itself into a (somewhat BS) FRA exemption. The DE triggers its *own* PTC mandate with the proposed 6th round-trip, so CSX serendipitously settles up that prereq by merely existing at all here. If NNEPRA then steps up for coordination that means it'll be continuation of the cab signals + Amtrak ACSES system that the T is installing North Station-Haverhill rather than CSX's I-ETMS system from the west-of-Worcester B&A (which all Amtrak diesel equipment is out-of-box compatible with, but is more-freight/less-passenger optimized than ACSES). And it'll also be a jump-start to MUCH more double-tracking infill along the route. Right now NNEPRA only has funding for a Wells passing siding that extends some pre-existing DT territory a couple miles to solve one particular close-shave schedule conflict. You'll need many, many miles more to start hitting the ground if CSX is going to be running 80+ car IM trains all-day...even if their OTP is going to be a million times better than ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ PAR-culture "slop-ops" that makes DE scheduling such a crapshoot. It'll be a substantial (if still very long-game) goal towards an eventual complete re-stitch of Plaistow-Portland double-tracking on the corridor that hasn't existed since late-60's. And since presence of Class I behemoth opens up many more doors for Fed grants, there's also potential to wad up a lot of that DT stuff with the NHDOT/MEDOT double-stack clearance projects under generous fed funding help.

This will be mega for setting the table on future service increases. Up to and including further-fetched MEDOT linear commuter rail south-of-Portland and NHDOT-via-T commuter rail Haverhill-Dover like existed to 1965 (probably under similar local-in-NH/superexpress-in-MA template as their Concord CR service plan). NNEPRA really needs to wrap their heads quickly around what priorities get highlighted at the top, because they sometimes struggle bigly when it comes to the distraction-free long game. There was good reason during their "Summer of Service Hell" 2015 when a too-late starting tie replacement project clobbered the DE with speed restrictions and cancellations that Amtrak's CEO made the unusual step of publicly excoriating one of its state partners for wasting too much time on expansion studies (e.g. Lewiston-Auburn) rather than shoring up its BOS-POR business core. They were disgusted that the state seemed to be wavering from laser-like focus on Western Route upgrades; the rare display of public blast from them was because they knew full well that the whole ballgame could change in an instant if a Class I bought PAR exactly like this. We shall see if the local-yokel alphabet-soup agencies are up to the challenge of this pivot, because it's a rare windfall of resources that may be shining on this corridor in time-limited funding fashion.


Should also note the implications north-of-Portland. It's still, frankly...baffling...what CSX sees in Northern Maine (Waterville, Bangor, etc.) despite their self-pub about Maritimes port access. PAR is too slow for too many poor-ROI upgrade miles compared to Canadian Pacific's newly re-acquired + upgraded east-west route, and is too hollowed-out of biz from decades of Pan Am indifference to be much of a prospect. A lot is still verily unclear about what they plan there...or if it'll even be under CSX or if that territory is going to be brokered off to someone else like New Brunswick Southern out of the Maritimes. HOWEVER, Auburn has an existing intermodal ramp next to the airport shared between PAR and St. Lawrence & Atlantic (owned by the same Genessee & Wyoming mega-conglomerate as regional biggies Providence & Worcester, Connecticut Southern on the Springfield Line, and Vermonter-hosting New England Central). Plus the two mega-huge paper mills on the 43-mile Rumford Branch just north of Auburn buttering their daily bread. So Auburn's ideally positioned to grow, but PAR is so instutuionally hapless at 'getting' IM that its utilization is half-assed at best. Which in turn makes St. Lawrence's Auburn-Montreal mainline malingering on half-cocked traffic levels despite its double-stack clearances, 286,000 lb. weight rating, immaculate state-of-repair, and "pretty good" 25 MPH freight speed.

SLR and CSX are match-made-in-heaven alliance partners...which (per earlier mention of how industry players have been reading the Portland tea leaves for years) is exactly why the enormous Genessee & Wyoming borg keeps squatting there in spite of PAR's haplessness. CSX is one alliance agreement with G&W away from ready-made lane to mucho-lucrative Port of Montreal and competitive parity with Canadian Pacific up north. So much so that CSX has for the past year been in active sell-off (currently stalled in front of the federal STB over shortline objections) of its existing Buffalo-Montreal lane--the Massena Line--to Canadian National. A far poorer Montreal lane because of its capacity limitations and because it only gets close-but-no-cigar to the actual Port of Montreal, requiring too many payouts to other carriers. Even though they started the Massena sale process 1 full year prior to the PAR announcement...they so clearly did so because Auburn-Montreal is hands-down the superior lane and they knew internally they were going for it on PAR.

So there will be CRUSH-LOAD increase in freight traffic between Rigby Yard in South Portland and the Auburn ramp, as the entirety of that route is serendipitously double-stack cleared, heavyweight-rated, and (by freight standards) relatively speedy. That will in turn put emphasis on a little more double-tracking of the Downeaster overlap from Downtown Portland to Royal Jct. in Yarmouth, and state-of-repair upgrades to the "merely okay" PAR Auburn route after it splits from the DE, and possibly even some uprate of SLR's main from 25 to 40 MPH (i.e. 60 MPH passenger, the max you can do without a signal system) if they see a big traffic bump. This will under the longest-game increase the attractiveness of Lewiston-Auburn commuter rail, and those concepts of a Portland-Montreal sleeper train since SLR will be "good enough" speed like the Vermonter and it already hosts VIA Rail's Montreal-Halifax Ocean train points west of Sherbrooke, QUE. NNEPRA likewise will have to pivot here to the ultra-long game...not by engaging in more short-attention span theatre pax studies way too soon for the state's meager means, and yes by getting the edjamucation it seems to thoroughly lack today about reading the freight industry's tea leaves.
 

cneal

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MaineDOT's 295 widening proposal died about 15 years ago, and for reasons both financial and political, it's not being revived. The region's MPO long ago decided that the Turnpike should carry most regional through traffic, instead of trying to cram even more vehicles into the state's most congested area. The highway's biggest choke points are the exit ramps and connecting city streets, which can't be widened, and since rising seas are already flooding the entire Bayside neighborhood several times a year, it's not a great place for rails, either.

That said, I totally agree with the utility of avoiding the Deering single track and at-grade crossings. So, I'd suggest a variant: re-route the Downeaster onto the (straighter) Maine Turnpike corridor west of Portland, by way of refurbished Mtn. Division tracks:



Doing this would also build out over half of the proposed Portland-Westbrook urban rail line, and open up more TOD opportunities (which have a snowball's chance in hell along the Grand Trunk route's coastal towns).

It also leaves open the cost-saving possibility of keeping the current station without the inefficient back-up moves.

Given financial constraints at MaineDOT, even this is probably unlikely, but, if developers like the Rock Row guys agreed to put up matching funds, it could happen.
 

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PT. 2 big-picture explainer. . .

As for crush-load freight and all the stuff I posted ^above^ likely coming through Downtown Portland, here's where we rope in the "295 Multimodalway" re-route megaproject outlined in yesterday's posts.

In short: Oh God...the synergies!...they sautee like buttah!

Think of all that freight ROI coming to town from the CSX acquisition. Then feed it through the 11-grade crossing shit sandwich in residential Portland. Awful no? And also feed it through the politics of the Thompson's Point-reverse shit sandwich vs. a proper Union Station re-siting and finagling slots @ Mountain Jct. amid all that dizzying traffic being dispatched to the crossing hell-cluster. You sure as hell aren't paring any minutes ever off the PTC reverse amid that kind of spiraling traffic profile; the northbound wye leg NNEPRA proposes @ Mountain Jct. is mere drop-in-bucket to what's needed. Furthermore, there is no way in hell the City will ever support grade separation of the hell-crossing cluster via mile-long Chinese Wall embankment resting its dirt firmly against tight-packed backyard fences.

See where this is already going? A re-route is paramount...strictly for rail traffic. But what about road traffic, because all this Intermodal/rail-to-truck/drayage stuff @ S. Portland and Auburn looms large too. We already have an enormous sea change in time-of-day truck traffic coming to the City via the CSX Intermodal revolution. Like with Greater Worcester it will result in more trucks overall, but at shorter day-shift distances and MANY more locally-taxpaying truck operators...and with less trucking on the highways during peak periods and enormously better radial distribution of it via positioning of the rail-to-truck transloads at diverging highways sprinkled with some GPS dispatching magic. The lane from Montreal--already double-stack and heavyweight rated as far down as Rigby in South Portland--also looms huge in addition to the Massachusetts/New York pipe.

You could easily pitch the 295 widening as a needed megaproject beforehand, in spite of some hand-wringing about induced demand and MEDOT's funding capability. It is mercifully doable on existing footprint by eating the median and buffing out shoulders, so has no thorny land-acquisition issues. But with the world getting stingier about induced demand, it helps 295's prospects enormously to already have permanent self-controls in place over induced demand spikes with CSX IM's coattails and a better Downeaster thru routing. You can more easily justify the megaproject premium here by leveraging the ROI of the new cross-downtown pipe, and do so much more securely than NHDOT's reckless borrow-on-margin I-93 widening...which spent itself into a hole on land acq. AND left no throttle for the induced demand that's already chewing it up. Let's also remember that >90% of the re-route already exists as tracks-in-ground via: the unused "active" MEDOT Grand Trunk tracks north-of-Back Cove, the unused/still-extant first-half Union Branch tracks to Forest Ave., the active Narrow Gauge museum tracks reserving five-sixths of the Ferry Terminal spur, and the sad dollar-store strip mall + parking lot taking up the Old Union Station site. Only about 1.5 miles of it between Forest Ave. and the Cove Bridge need to be re-conceptualized bolted to the "295 Multimodalway" to complete the link, and only the Congress St. grade crossing needs rail-over-road elimination to do a totally sealed intracity trunk.

The ROI here is full-on "paydirt"-level for going for it on 295 and the "Multimodalway" shotgun. CSX Intermodal is going to underwrite majority-share of the upside, since all of that traffic increase gets pumped directly into the local economy via locally-based trucking, greater price controls over goods, and shitload of new shipping & industrial job creation around Rigby Yard and Auburn Yard. The Downeaster immediately pounces by shaving the schedule-maiming Thompson's Point reverse, bypassing the traffic constraints of the crossing hell for future schedule increases, and strengthening its pipe to Brunswick & beyond. It also gains seasonal audience flex with the Ferry Terminal spur. It makes reasonable intercity prospects like a New York-Portland State of Maine revival via Inland Route + Grand Junction to North Station + express-flavored DE considerably more attractive for NNEPRA to fund, and puts a little more pan-New England *oomph* behind the long-game NSRL megaproject in Boston running Virginia-style Northeast Regionals extended to Portland.

And then there's future transit prospects. The 'circuit' flavors being worlds higher-upside commuter rail prospects than linear pokes to Westbrook and Yarmouth...and being implementable at cut-rate price for their higher 'circuit' ridership under the revamped network. The supremely attractive "everywhere to everywhere" positioning of Union Station for blending those Urban Rail circuits with linear run-thru RUR south-of-Portland on the Western Route shotgunned to Lewiston-Auburn on track CSX will be living large on (thus lending some clarity to the utterly anti-clear previous Lewiston-Auburn pax studies where NNEPRA threw good time/$$$ at bad). The fact that it makes that Portland-Montreal sleeper train via a (likely speed-upgraded and freight-enriched) SLR main more realistic bait than ever before. The fact that it all strengthens the Portland linchpin in a way that encourages gradual Downeaster extensions via installment plan to Augusta...then Waterville...then finally Bangor. Or seasonal run-thrus via Brunswick to Rockland. With distinct audiences and growth trajectory *apart* from any future Portland-centric Northeast Regional run-thrus. These are extension prospects that have been studied before to some degree...but have never looked all that galvanizing run under today's time-chew Thompson's Point reverse and clear-as-mud "vision thing" re: leveraging under-performing Brunswick as a hub. That future for the DE as a true-blue "Maine Train" gets a lot clearer post- Portland network revamp.


So look where all these dominoes fall. First the freight juvenation machine outlined in Pt. 1 via CSX, then how that move forces more urgent decision-making for NNEPRA et al. on their core route and Downtown Portland traffic management. Then look at where the ROI from CSX lends credence to the Portland re-route and "295 Multimodalway" via the IM trucking coattails. Then look at the outflow to the future passenger environment and how much EASIER, LESS COSTLY, and HIGHER RIDERSHIP projects become in the future if you've set the table with this new trunk. The only way Maine can afford--with Greater Portland paying the bills for the entirety of the state's economy--to take on transformative transpo projects is by seeking exponential Return On Investment. ^^ALL OF THIS^^ is exactly how one goes about doing exactly that. The opportunity is there.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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MaineDOT's 295 widening proposal died about 15 years ago, and for reasons both financial and political, it's not being revived. The region's MPO long ago decided that the Turnpike should carry most regional through traffic, instead of trying to cram even more vehicles into the state's most congested area. The highway's biggest choke points are the exit ramps and connecting city streets, which can't be widened, and since rising seas are already flooding the entire Bayside neighborhood several times a year, it's not a great place for rails, either.

That said, I totally agree with the utility of avoiding the Deering single track and at-grade crossings. So, I'd suggest a variant: re-route the Downeaster onto the (straighter) Maine Turnpike corridor west of Portland, by way of refurbished Mtn. Division tracks:



Doing this would also build out over half of the proposed Portland-Westbrook urban rail line, and open up more TOD opportunities (which have a snowball's chance in hell along the Grand Trunk route's coastal towns).

It also leaves open the cost-saving possibility of keeping the current station without the inefficient back-up moves.

Given financial constraints at MaineDOT, even this is probably unlikely, but, if developers like the Rock Row guys agreed to put up matching funds, it could happen.
The problem with that is it's waaaaaaaaaaaay out of Downtown and would flat-out cost more for the miles and miles of virgin ROW along 95 vs. full-on biting the bullet on 295. But keep in mind: you don't have to full-on bite the bullet on 295 widening to do the "Multimodalway". The "Multimodalway" can be accomplished sans any I-295 widening if that's more resource-preferable because all but 1.5 miles of it already exists in fully tracked in-situ form via:
  • the Union Branch (still tracked) from its mainline split to Forest Ave./Exit 6 up to the point where it leaves 295's side and becomes start of the Bayside Trail
  • the unused and crossing-few GT on the other side of the Cove to Yarmouth.
  • the Narrow Gauge Museum tracks between the sewage plant and Ferry Terminal.

So you can target the same exact 1.5 miles on 295's shoulder between Exit 6 and the other side of the Cove all the same for constructing the connecting ROW, just without the thrown-in lane widening and deletion of all that associated asphalt cost from the project total. Probably would even be a little easier that way because you can simply eat the center median all the same as if you were widening to 6 lanes, but bank the space savings for 2-3 side tracks on the most space-constrained portion between Exits 6-8. Then rebuild the Cove bridge all the same with the attached track berth, and maybe even a Bayside Path berth throw-in across the Cove using the width savings.

Same exact Ferry Terminal track junction/wye provision allowable across the sewage plant parkland as future add-on, and same future service coattails via a Union Station-site centric universe for freight v. pax dispatching, run-thru CR, and low-cost Urban Rail 'circuiting'. For freight, same direct route to Auburn via the GT switcheroo (honestly, it's almost in eyesight of the paralleling PAR Back Road the whole way past Yarmouth Jct...Captain Obvious already needs to smack PAR over the head with a newspaper).

Tally up costs (way lower) sans 295 widening and land acquisition + EIS'ing (functionally $0) from that revised-down "Multimodalway" plan vs. the I-95 bolt-on that requires >4 miles of brand new co-run ROW with nonzero land acquisition/EIS'ing and readying 3 miles of Mountain Jct. and Mountain Branch track for crush-load traffic it has never historically carried before. Head-to-head it's a lot worse on absolute cost, and wretchedly worse on bang-for-buck (the thing Maine absolutely must prioritize to make anything happen).


Something is also very, very wrong with this entire picture if Rock Row is the straw that stirs the drink for all of pan-Portland transpo planning. Look at how dragged-off-center all of that is on a map. It's like taking the already inefficient Thompson's Point sojurn with all its existing local gripes about being inefficiently off-center...then putting it through a hall of funhouse mirrors. No sane urban planner would ever take one look at that and say "This...this is how my City should be organized." And it's D.O.A. with the freight folks, too, for being rudely inefficient compared to the current route (crap bigger'n 'em billion-dollar national concerns like CSX not being ones who care much about one neighborhood's grade crossing gripes). CSX Jacksonville, FL dispatcher doesn't want to hold its breath every time a 100-car freight out of Rigby has to safely round the sharp Mountain Jct. curve in one piece.

I mean...yeah, it's feasible if you make some unmovably arbitrary prereq assumptions like "Rock Row does control my entire planning universe", but the real world--even under way-loosened financial constraints--is never going to skew that way. Nor should it...because a re-route like that is utterly anti-useful to any future transpo network that envisions Downtown Portland being linchpin to a whole slew of coattail services. Not to mention because of ^^all described above^^ that 5 miles of rail ROW bolted to I-95 being [$$$ >>] 1.5 miles along 295...with or without any shotgunned 295 widening. So it also has no comparison in a cost-constrained universe when you have full flex to take-it-or-leave-it on the add-a-lane component to the "Multimodalway"...but still get to make way enormously more efficient use of the extant pieces of the rail network going that way vs. anything force-fit on the Mountain Branch.

It literally is a "my whole world rests on Rock Row" giving that Alt. any bandwidth to exist...and that is overall an awfully naff set of dev assumptions to be rearranging the whole urban fabric around. Are we really expecting RR redev to hit the proverbial 5-run home run where that becomes realistic discussion fodder??? I lightly follow the RR thread; sounds much more like a "hoping for a triple; satisfied with an RBI double" dev prospect in the real world than anything resembling this over-moon set of assumptions.
 
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fattony

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At the risk of being accused of map-making-est perfection-osity, a trunk line down Congress seems ideal. Two lines along the perimeter of the peninsula have about the same catchment as a single line on Congress, but of course actually hitting the CBD employment center dead-on is much more valuable than it being a 0.5mi walk from the perimeter lines. That awkward distance essentially undermines bus transfers. The greater cost could be offset somewhat by the vastly greater utility and smaller number of stations, rolling stock, operators, etc.

Seeing as this is “crazy” land, can we kick the tires on a Congress street alignment? It’s pretty narrow for street running, but with the elimination of all parking it could work. Do I dare mention subway?
 

cneal

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I agree that both proposals are unlikely to ever happen – but I maintain the Turnpike alignment through empty ROW is much, much less unlikely than a multi-billion project with multiple new overpasses and highway interchange reconstructions through Falmouth and the Portland peninsula. Plus, I'm fairly skeptical of proposals to try and increase transit service through wealthy towns that don't really want it and are intensely opposed to new development. I mentioned Rock Row because it's but one representative example of the TOD opportunities along the Portland-Westbrook border – and unlike Falmouth and Yarmouth, Portland and Westbrook would both welcome more development like this.

For those of us from Maine, that area isn't "way out of town" – in fact, it's much closer to the region's population and employment centers than the coastal Grand Trunk line would be, and it's ripe for more density. That's one reason why NNEPRA is looking to build an infill station at West Falmouth.
 

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I agree that both proposals are unlikely to ever happen – but I maintain the Turnpike alignment through empty ROW is much, much less unlikely than a multi-billion project with multiple new overpasses and highway interchange reconstructions through Falmouth and the Portland peninsula. Plus, I'm fairly skeptical of proposals to try and increase transit service through wealthy towns that don't really want it and are intensely opposed to new development. I mentioned Rock Row because it's but one representative example of the TOD opportunities along the Portland-Westbrook border – and unlike Falmouth and Yarmouth, Portland and Westbrook would both welcome more development like this.
Did you refactor costs for the 1.5 mile link-up without the add-a-lane, though??? That's not a billion-dollar project at all. Let's compare project differences for the Turnpike re-route vs. 295 with or without the add-a-lane component:

Land acquisition and EIS'ing...which are the two most reliable cost bloaters of any transpo project:
  • The Turnpike will have nonzero land acquisition and EIS'ing to widen its roadbed footprint, because it doesn't have enough 'eat-the-median' space to shiv 2 tracks on the same roadpack footprint. There are side wetlands along much of the route that would need to be contended with, which is why there was never historically much add-a-lane appetite for the Turnpike side of the split.
  • 295 is no-cost land acquisition because of the separate Union Branch ROW to Exit 6, and the Marginal Way + Sewage Plant Rd. frontage road co-graded with the highway the entirety of the way to Back Cove. Back Cove Bridge approaches on both sides are 300 ft. wide, only 140 feet in active use by the highway width; no additional EIS'ing required there for the widening. As before, we're eating Sewage Plant Rd. entirely for the final Cove-approach ROW and giving the plant a new 300 ft. driveway across the park off of North St. dead-end.
It's 100% cleansheet permitting across the 1.5 miles of 295 because of the widening-compatible Cove approach and conjoined frontage road. It's not *large* variance of unknowns along the Turnpike...but you're going to accrue a fair share of paper cuts on the Turnpike by virtue of it being 3x the mileage and in large part dipping off the existing roadpack to do the widening. When not much else ends up differentiating project v. project costs, incidental land-acquisition + EIS'ing papercuts can indeed prove sum-total cost difference. NOT-favorably for the Turnpike, as it were.

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

Now let's look at required interchange and bridge mods:
  • Turnpike requires 6 rebuilt or side-augmented bridges for fitting in the rail ROW: ME 25B, Exit 48 approach, Warren Ave., US 302, Riverside St., Blackstrap Rd. Requires *wholesale* reconstruction of Exit 48's bulbous trumpet interchange to create any functional room for the ROW. Some modest degree of mods required for Exit 52 @ Falmouth Spur for insertion angles at the meet-up back to the existing Downeaster/PAR route, centered around Blackstrap Rd. and rail overpass/underpass construction to square the angles.
  • 295 requires 5 rebuilt or deck-augmented bridges--same number with or without the add-a-lane project--for fitting the rail ROW: Forest Ave., Preble St., Franklin St., Washington Ave. NB onramp (insertion angle correction), and the 480 ft. Back Cove uni-deck. 3 *half*-interchanges or 1 full + 2 halves are modded: Exit 6 NB-side re-stripped as narrow-profile diamond instead of sprawling cloverleaf (mirror-image compacting of SB side is optional but recommended); Exit 7 NB-only diamond is re-stripped 25-50 ft. closer to roadway @ same length/geometry (SB trumpet untouched); Exit 8 NB entrance geometrically reshaped for ROW insertion angles (Cove approach + future Ferry Terminal wye spatial provision). As before, Sewage Plant Rd. gets claimed for the ROW.
  • Only 2 other bridge mods req'd on the total 10-mile Downtown-Yarmouth Jct. re-route. (1) Union Branch over Park Ave./St. John St. intersection (double-track truss...needs modern replacement, and shoot for tri-track width if available). (2) Grand Trunk over Presumpscot River mouth, Falmouth (very sturdy single-track stone+steel that used to be twinned eons ago...negligible rehab needed but should be re-twinned unless small single-track pinch acceptable).
Bridge costs are probably a wash...Cove crossing deck weights high for 295 but deletion of add-a-lane brings down all other costs to just paralleling rail decks. Interchange mods sans add-a-lane way more attractive 295 vs. Turnpike...which incurs a messy blowout wholesale-rebooting Exit 48 and mildly messy new rail overpass/underpass cost at Exit 52 to fix the insertion geometry. The rail-only bridge mods are extreme-few in number but money-in-the-bank vs. dealing with the grade crossing hell.

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And now total permitting required for rail route length:
  • Turnpike: 4.1 miles of 'virgin' ROW. 2 mandatory new junctions: 90-degree angle @ Read Rd., Portland + ~45-degree angle @ Falmouth Spur + Blackstrap Rd., Falmouth.
  • 295: 1.5 miles of 'virgin' ROW. 0 mandatory new junctions; mainline/Union Br. split (high-speed angle) extant, 90-degree Yarmouth Jct. EB wye extant for Downeaster + straight-ahead for thru freight. 1 *optional-provision* SB-facing junction or NB/SB wye @ Sewage Plant Rd./Exit 7 (NB-entrance mod) for Ferry Terminal spur.
No-contest. The right-angle junction on the Mountain is muy problematic for long freights. CSX will dig in its heels and give a curt "Fuck you!" to coming off the grade crossing-hell route if those are the ops terms. Do you seriously blow up the whole of Pine Tree Mall to widen that split and gain their cooperation??? Doubtful. But unless you do you may gain zero freight relief over the crossing hell-cluster because CSX will have large objections to running unit trains over those sharp angles, and the state can't unilaterally force a routing switch (if it goes to fed STB arbitration CSX wins hands-down).

In-situ costs on existing track:
  • Turnpike: 3.1 miles of active Mountain Jct. + Mountain Branch. 4 grade crossings. 1 existing hard-angle junction (Mountain Jct. S-curve). CSX will similarly have a bone to pick with Mountain Jct. over any attempt to redirect them away from mainline crossing hell. Do you seriously go eminent domain on the hospital parking lot and rebuild a segment of Fore River Pkwy. trying to ease those curves?
  • 295: 0.7 miles of inactive Union Branch + 10.2 miles of "nominal-active" Grant Trunk main, beans plant @ Cove to Yarmouth Jct. 10 public grade crossings (assume Congress St. is eliminated in any scenario). 1 high-speed junction (Union/mainline split), 1 existing passenger-only hard-angle junction (90-degree Yarmouth split for Downeaster; straight-ahead across diamond for thru freight).
Costs are higher for the Yarmouth re-route. But you also gain a bona fide Downeaster intermediate between Portland & Freeport that doesn't exist on the current route, and guaranteed perma-route freight off the crossing hell cluster so it's total fair game for local-yokel passenger terraforming. So the revenue train is guaranteed here where you've got a big fly-in-ointment over CSX willingly playing ball on any Turnpike re-route.

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

I don't see how there's any serious cost argument to be made here. If you simply delete the 295 add-a-lane...which under no circumstances was a prereq...you can do the same project in the same Downtown area for far less cash...and simply upgrade your way at fixed-cost increments on all the existing track outside that 1.5 miles to the Cove. *Anything* you do with the Turnpike is going to accrue dings through unorthodoxy (multiple hard-angle freight junctions), permitting (wetlands, 3x the 'virgin' ROW), relative scope of required mods to existing highway structures (Exits 48 & 52), and all the extras like $primo$ extra land-acquisition you may have to mount to net any CSX cooperation for re-routes off the crossing cluster.

And all of this for...what?...goosing service at Portland Transportation Center? A station that's already divided the Townies on arguments over whether it is/isn't in the wrong place? Nowhere does PTC need to get a wrecking ball. It's just a shitty place to send the Downeaster when Union Station is still available at pennies-on-dollar in the form of that tacky dollar-store strip mall. You can thru-route shitloads of future commuter rail to PTC at your pleasure via that already-planned Mountain Jct. north wye that'll touch Union Station's platforms complex; that's how it used to work when the MEC Mountaineer used to depart that way in its glory days. It's just a piss ops-poor way of running the Downeaster from Boston. Including if the reverse gets traded in for a couple speed-killing hard-angle junctions on the Turnpike re-route.
 

cneal

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Oh, definitely, get rid of the highway widening and a peninsula rail line becomes more feasible (both from a capital costs perspective, and from a ridership perspective). NNEPRA did a very cursory study of that alignment in 2006, and they concluded it would cost $41 million (in 2006 money) for a mostly single-tracked route, PTC to Yarmouth Jct., with some slow twists and turns around the Exit 6 cloverleaf to avoid any expensive flyovers:
https://www.maine.gov/mdot/planning/docs/portlandnorth/Portland North Expansion Review1b.pdf

That said, the primary reason to re-route on the Turnpike ROW is definitely not to salvage the PTC (though it gives us that option); it's to avoid the Deering bottleneck by a route that also builds out half of the Westbrook urban rail line and thus opens up a lot more TOD opportunity.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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For those of us from Maine, that area isn't "way out of town" – in fact, it's much closer to the region's population and employment centers than the coastal Grand Trunk line would be, and it's ripe for more density. That's one reason why NNEPRA is looking to build an infill station at West Falmouth.
NNEPRA also spends a lot of time "looking" at things like Lewiston-Auburn forks when it should be laser-like focusing on fortifying its BOS-POR core...which is why it got the unprecedented Amtrak big-boss rebuke during the Summer-of-'15 speedo hell. But what long game actually gives NNEPRA the tools to address each separate fringe advocacy in its portfolio?

It's not doubling-down on Thompson's Point. The Downeaster gets harder, not easier, to augment up north with that. Same goes for trading in the schedule-chewing reverse for somewhat less-chewy but still kinda chewy perma-reroute around the Turnpike and its multiple hard-angle junctions. Not being way outta town for "those of us from Maine" isn't the point. It is way outta town for a train being dispatched from Boston or New York where Southern New England + coattails are the primary ROI the state is chasing as future means of giving Mainer locals nicer transpo things.

They can only accomplish those nice things by chasing exponential ROI where it's available.
  • That means you must build off the strengths of the Boston intercity franchise as a conduit for more by putting your City station on the same line from whence it came and from where it departs. If the DE can't shave serious time in/out of Portland the cost in passed-up ridership growth from Boston (and also SOUTH of Boston via more reliable scheduled NS-BBY transfers in the era preceding run-thrus) cuts directly against the prospects of other dreams.
  • It means freight absolutely 100% must be part-and-parcel with the plan. You either choose a route away from the crossing hell-cluster that's fully sympatico with a behemoth national entity like CSX or G.T.F.O. because they won't play. Hard-angle junctions on a 100-car unit train won't do that; it slows them down to excruciating 10 MPH and hits their national derailment insurance rates. Every single time they'll opt for the straight line that closes somebody's crossing gates for 30 minutes at a time, and you can't tell them otherwise because they own it and are backed by federal preemption. Which means either go to intra-city war over Chinese Wall grade separation in a dense residential area or find a different straight path.
  • It also means Maine has to look at its sprawly rail map filled with excess route duplication and think strategically and holistically of better ways to manage its assets. You look at the Grand Trunk to thru-route the highest-ROI freight and intercity because by doing that you can still keep the duplicating MEC main active for bit-player freight until you can muster up for local commuter rail. You look to 'circuiting' and the Ferry Terminal filets because linear CR is a marginal-at-best prospect and needs some top-line augmentation to truly be implementable. You also look to it because shorter-term bit players like local freight jobs and in-season Ferry Terminal POR-terminating DE's bookmark them with slight value-added sooner before full-blown CR comes to town. You look to it because a full Regional Rail network of couple 'circuit' Urban Rail patterns paired with run-thru 'conventional' RUR Saco/etc.-Portland-Auburn at a Union Station linchpin complement each other like a glove where ramming a bunch of strictly linear pairing misfits into the PTC turnout upends itself solely on ops concept and leaves NNEPRA forever grasping at straws.
You do it because if you don't do it...the GT Back Cove-Auburn, both halves of the Bishop St. track, and the Mountain Branch everywhere past PTC will be either ripped out in 15 years' time for rail trails or rusting-in-place chewing neverending "study" subsidy like MEDOT's embarrassing can't-quit addiction to Portland-Fryeburg. Network redundancy will take care of itself, and burn a hole in MEDOT's pocket on the way out. You will get no transit flexi-canvas to dream on, you will never gain relief to Crossing Hell, and the Downeaster will always be dealing from too weak an ops hand to keep stepping on the gas for more northward growth. You also won't be able to entertain Alternatives like the Turnpike route any more than you would crosstown, because those 3 miles of Mountain Branch will be an out-of-service, $0 revenue-generating political football in steadily advancing decay under relentless pressure from the trail lobby like its Fryeburg leg.​

You can have everything you want...West Falmouth infill included and every commuter rail doodle imaginable...by following exponential ROI like the state's life depends on it. That doesn't mean the crosstown "Multimodalway" is the only way (except I'm at a total loss to posit any plausible alternative that checks all the same boxes satisfactorily)...but it does mean the same principles involving the logic behind that one have to be RIGIDLY adhered to. No kludge routes in Maine...E-V-E-R. No route duplication without "positive feedback" return (e.g. 'circuiting' upside) in Maine...E-V-E-R. Freight and passenger are inseparable forces for good...ALWAYS. And what's good for Downtown is good for the region/country, and vice versa in similar ROI "positive feedback" ...so choose your big-city anchor station locations extremely wisely. If Union Station is only a splitting-hairs difference over Thompson's Point in local lore, then: "DUH!" Work Union Station over to the hilt first, and Thompson's Point re-use will follow. Again...dragging the whole map off-center in pants-shitting fear of largely unrealized TOD is a godawful scaredy-pants way of urban planning. You can do whatever you want inclusive of PTC by first following the whole regional transpo universe's ROI to the Union Sta. parcel and bettering the funding chances for all other appendages from the revenue coattails. I can't fathom how the same upside results from chasing the inverse track @ PTC first.
 
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Tom Nevers

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I understand the Mountain Junction north wye to have have fallen out of favor with NNEPRA. Maybe that will change if MDOT isn't supportive of relocating from the PTC to the old Union Station location, which I expect will, unfortunately, be the conclusion they reach.

I'm lukewarm on the the proposed west Falmouth stop. The material from the 1/2020 meeting held in Falmouth doesn't suggest the community is interested in intensive development of the area and the stop is, in part, being pitched as a spot for people coming south on 95 to catch the train but I'm skeptical about the number of riders that would attract. Of course, I'm biased as a Brunswick resident who doesn't want to see travel time increase.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I'm lukewarm on the the proposed west Falmouth stop. The material from the 1/2020 meeting held in Falmouth doesn't suggest the community is interested in intensive development of the area and the stop is, in part, being pitched as a spot for people coming south on 95 to catch the train but I'm skeptical about the number of riders that would attract. Of course, I'm biased as a Brunswick resident who doesn't want to see travel time increase.
Serious misread of their audience if they think there's massive park-and-ride share beating down their door from the north. Do they not even attempt to explain why Freeport's large--and free!--lot off 295 hasn't drawn flies since opening? The excessive Portland layover is a now-proven deterrent from the North, which is why PTC has a parking problem to begin with. Too much less hassle to drive straight into the City for a departure rather than deal with both ends of the reverse. If you're a Boston super-commuter you're already time-conscious enough to make that consideration an inflection point in your trip planning, and likely doing the PTC drive slightly outside of rush hour to begin with. And the DE is neither scheduled nor priced for local travel...so no one would use West Falmouth to get into the City for a commute the same way they would (or wouldn't) use...say...the Pn'R lot on the east/295 end of Falmouth Spur to take the bus in. So that leaves...intra-Mainers heading from Brunswick to Saco or something like that??? Not a large audience at all with these schedules, but might explain a lot about why the 15K hardy souls who do annually use Freeport made their choice. I doubt that what's NNEPRA truly had in mind when mounting the Brunswick extension, but if they're going to miss the point badly enough to let PTC vs. Union Station siting get decided on something as tangential as intracity walkup audience I guess that's the bet they're inadvertently taking with north-of-POR.

Little in the way of functional TOD to be had behind the Hannaford's Supermarket lot on ME 26 to begin with, so Town of Falmouth's lukewarmness to it likely isn't just selfish sentiment...but an accurate reflection of reality. NNEPRA I gather will fit that inconvenient conclusion into whatever its internal reality is, if they haven't been swayed enough by the Brunswick extension's underperformance to get real about troubleshooting its root causes.


NNEPRA truly is a baffling outfit to read, sometimes. For everything they're on-point and forward-thinking about as a planning and marketing body--which is a real lot--there's 2 or 3 other leaps-of-assumption from them that make little sense. Like being perpetually waaaaaay too over-invested in the concept of the TOD Fairy without having any good grasp on what makes successful vs. non-successful TOD siting case studies from the real world. And lots and lots of Shiny-ball Syndrome distractions like all these extreme-premature service fork studies when the world is beating them over the head not to lose focus on enhancing their trunk route. It's way past time for a change in leadership after 21 years of Patricia Quinn directorship, as the discipline to eschew all this anti-focus frilliness and hew close to where their bread gets buttered has never been all that strong from the top. The secondary ranks in the agency are pretty diverse and constantly refreshed...maybe needing a little less-Mainer/more-national perspective with more recruits experienced on successfully growing other Corridor routes, but otherwise not bad as a collected talent. But this pattern of getting too-precious about overrating certain things that don't matter like the most nebulously defined pixie-dust TOD and conversely downplaying the things that do like "On-Time Performance rules the world" smacks of somebody's unilateral worldview being imposed over reality. Quinn is the literal only constant from Day 1 to present-day at any of the alphabet-soup agencies that adequately accounts for the pervasiveness of that attitude. Probably past time for a change in direction at the top.
 
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cneal

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^ We're getting into some fairly practical considerations for a "crazy" transit pitch threads, but yeah: the trunk route's the most important thing, so why divert resources at all to new rails north of Portland, where there's extremely little ridership? It *only* makes sense if there's a big influx of TOD along the route to justify the capital costs and reduce NNEPRA's massive per-trip operations subsidies. That said, I don't think it's that crazy to imagine high-density TOD getting built in greater Portland; there's certainly demand for it. It's just not gonna happen anywhere in Falmouth, Cumberland, Freeport, or Yarmouth.
 

Dr. StrangeHat

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Wasn’t there talk recently of reducing I-295 to an at-grade boulevard in stead of a divided highway? Again, probably not going to happen, but wouldn’t that open up substantial real estate for F-Line’s pitch?
 
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