Portland, Maine - Commuter Rail via Mountain Division

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markhb
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Portland, Maine - Commuter Rail via Mountain Division

Post by markhb » Sat Aug 03, 2019 10:33 am

NNEPRA (the agency that sponsors the Amtrak Downeaster) has published a study of what it would take to run commuter service on the former Maine Central Mountain Division. It's pricey, but there's also a private entity (Rock Row, being built by Waterstone Properties) that is highly interested since the line bisects their property.
The rail service would require significant infrastructure improvements at an estimated cost of $70.8 million in addition to vehicle costs of $24 million to $42.6 million, depending on the type of train used and the frequency of service. Operation and maintenance would cost between $7 million and $13 million annually, the study estimates.

Quinn said the study is intended as a discussion-starter, and that no specific funding plan for the project has been determined. She said such a project likely would require private capital as well as local, state and federal dollars.
Those numbers include a fair-sized line extension down to Commercial Street to bring passengers closer to downtown.
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MEC407
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Re: Portland, Maine - Commuter Rail via Mountain Division

Post by MEC407 » Sat Aug 03, 2019 11:48 am

If my back-o'-napkin math is right, we're talking something like $25 million to $35 million per mile.

To shuttle people between Portland and Westbrook.

Two neighboring cities already well-served by bus service.

I don't even know what to say.
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gokeefe
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Re: Portland, Maine - Commuter Rail via Mountain Division

Post by gokeefe » Sat Aug 03, 2019 1:45 pm

I was likewise sceptical. What has changed is the willingness of a major developer to pay for a station and associated facilities at Rock Row in Westbrook.

I am mystified by NNEPRA's subtle enthusiasm for this proposal. Best I can make of it is this is an opening move (by multiple parties) to explore commuter rail in Maine on a very small scale.

While Amtrak almost certainly will not be the service provider NNEPRA clearly seems interested in being the agency operator. Given the support of other Portland agencies (PACTS and GPCOG) this seems to be a very serious proposal.

Another issue of note in this situation is the inexorable increase in congestion on Forest Avenue, Congress Street and Stevens Avenue. Commuter rail is potentially the only viable solution to this problem. Nobody is going to propose building an East West highway connector through upper middle class neighborhoods. And likewise the cost of widening existing streets is well beyond the budget as proposed for the heavy rail option.

The report acknowledges potential issues with the PTC waiver. I expect the resolution would be for the creation of a PTC "island" around Mountain Junction. Hopefully this idea is not straight out of "Fantasy Island" (de train, de train!).
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Re: Portland, Maine - Commuter Rail via Mountain Division

Post by gokeefe » Sat Aug 03, 2019 1:48 pm

markhb wrote:
Sat Aug 03, 2019 10:33 am
Those numbers include a fair-sized line extension down to Commercial Street to bring passengers closer to downtown.
I found the reuse of the existing rail tunnel and station siting proposal to be exceptionally creative. Has to be cheaper than a brand new light rail system by far.

Also notable that it would appear ideas such as these are the fruit of two very specific improvements, first, the creation of an FRA standard DMU design, and second the existence of multiple major manufacturers willing to build them.
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Re: Portland, Maine - Commuter Rail via Mountain Division

Post by mtuandrew » Sat Aug 03, 2019 4:01 pm

Sounds like a perfect use for Stadlers - or the Budd DMUs cooling their wheels in Vermont.

I also fail to see how this could cost $500m when running on existing tracks. I could see $50m, $100m max.

electricron
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Re: Portland, Maine - Commuter Rail via Mountain Division

Post by electricron » Sat Aug 03, 2019 4:22 pm

This commuter train will be around 20 miles in length between Westbrook and Portland. Westbrook has a population of 18,730 per Google. To achieve 2,000 passengers per day, they will need 1,000 of the 18,000 to commute by train, Thai is 5.5% of the total population including kids, retirees, workers, and housekeepers. Bus Route 4 from Westbrook to Portland runs with 30 minute headways every weekday. The buses are not full.

I wish this news article was more honest with its report.
Not telling the whole truth #1; Without PTC, the trains will be limited to 6 round trips per day as a DMU commuter train under FRA regulations. The existing Downeaster trains use most of those round trips already on tracks at Portland’s train station. To avoid PTC regulations, they would have to run a streetcar or light rail operation avoiding the FRA regulations completely, because they are regulated by the FTA instead. The study suggests hourly or half hourly trains running on tracks shared with freight trains at a total cost of less than $100 million.
Not telling the whole truth #2; While it is true Nashville’s Music City Star commuter rail was implemented very cheaply, it does not run more than 6 round trips per day. Austin’s CapMetroRail implemented a frequent DMU operation over 20 miles in length a decade ago for around $125 Million, on tracks they owned entirely. But it is spending almost as much again implementing PTC, adding a new permanent downtown station, and adding more passing sidings today. Far above the total $100 million they are suggesting today for Portland in an era of PTC regulations a decade later on tracks they do not own.

The study is not being honest about PTC and on what it will cost to build this service. It uses best case scenarios from elsewhere, scenarios not applicable to Maine, as the foundations of their not telling the whole truth. A complete EIS study would include the cost of adding lanes to the pre-existing highway between Westbrook and Portland, or the cost of a new two lane highway paralleling the existing one.

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Re: Portland, Maine - Commuter Rail via Mountain Division

Post by gokeefe » Sat Aug 03, 2019 4:39 pm

I think they may have been assuming peak service only. That now makes sense to me why they kept talking about "peak" so much. That would keep them under six round-trips per day.
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Bob Roberts
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Re: Portland, Maine - Commuter Rail via Mountain Division

Post by Bob Roberts » Sat Aug 03, 2019 6:27 pm

Could the Downeasters (that don't go on to Brunswick) benefit from the proposed Commercial street station? Anecdotes are not data but on my two trips to Portland on the DE I was no fan of the station location.

gokeefe
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Re: Portland, Maine - Commuter Rail via Mountain Division

Post by gokeefe » Sat Aug 03, 2019 8:18 pm

No, same problem as the PTC, it's off the Freight Main Line.
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electricron
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Re: Portland, Maine - Commuter Rail via Mountain Division

Post by electricron » Sat Aug 03, 2019 8:47 pm

gokeefe wrote:
Sat Aug 03, 2019 8:18 pm
No, same problem as the PTC, it's off the Freight Main Line.
And both trains, the Downeaster and this new commuter service, will certainly exceed the 6 round trips (12 trains per day) without PTC regulation exemption. PTC will be needed on the tracks exceeding 6 round trips a day, and that includes any Amtrak, commuter rail, and Pan Am freight locomotives using these tracks.

They are going to need to add PTC to this new commuter rail line, or build light rail instead, or build a viaduct over the existing railroad line. Every single choice will add tens of $millions to the final costs.

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Re: Portland, Maine - Commuter Rail via Mountain Division

Post by gokeefe » Sat Aug 03, 2019 10:12 pm

All trains will go to Brunswick soon regardless so it's also immaterial.

I remain very curious with regards to exactly what is going to happen with the Portland station. If this commuter proposal really is happening and NNEPRA is committed to ensuring the commuter service can overlap with the Downeaster on the Freight Main Line then there is only one place the station can go.

By PTC I meant Portland Transportation Center. Regardless, Positive Train Control appears to be required at least for Mountain Junction.
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Re: Portland, Maine - Commuter Rail via Mountain Division

Post by jonnhrr » Tue Aug 06, 2019 10:17 am

I'm beginning to think Positive Train Control (PTC) was a plot to insure adding new passenger service would be too expensive thus insuring drive/fly would be our transportation system in perpetuity.
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gokeefe
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Re: Portland, Maine - Commuter Rail via Mountain Division

Post by gokeefe » Tue Aug 06, 2019 10:03 pm

It's not. More like "Back to the Future" where the federal government wakes up from a long slumber and recalls it's duty to ensure safety.

The ICC required certain rudimentary systems (known as ATS or Automatic Train Stop) to be installed on certain lines in the 20s and 30s. The impetus was very similar to today's conditions.
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Rockingham Racer
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Re: Portland, Maine - Commuter Rail via Mountain Division

Post by Rockingham Racer » Wed Aug 07, 2019 6:27 am

Late to the party, but I can't conceive of enough demand for this service, that a bus or two during rush hour couldn't cover. What am I missing?

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Re: Portland, Maine - Commuter Rail via Mountain Division

Post by markhb » Wed Aug 07, 2019 6:32 am

Rockingham Racer wrote:
Wed Aug 07, 2019 6:27 am
Late to the party, but I can't conceive of enough demand for this service, that a bus or two during rush hour couldn't cover. What am I missing?
Rock Row. Seriously, they're the ones pushing it moreso than PACTS (the regional transporation planning body), NNEPRA or any of the cities. www.rockrow.com if you aren't familiar with the project (best viewed in Chrome, some of the site effects don't work in Firefox).
"...And then I thought, every time some company creates a more powerful locomotive does Superman become more powerful as well or is he stuck at 1938 locomotive power levels?" - A friend of mine elsewhere
Anything I post here is mine alone and does not represent the views of my employer.

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