TrainRiders Northeast (TNE), newsletter for Spring 2011:
Work has resumed for the 2011 construction season on the Freeport/Brunswick extension of Downeaster service. Crossties and grade crossings are being replaced, while right-of-way and signals are being improved. Passenger platforms are being installed in Freeport and Brunswick. Much of the cost of this work is being covered by a $35 million grant from the original American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) announced in 2009. 27 miles of track owned by Pan Am Rwailways are being rehabilitated north of Portland, as is another 1.2 miles owned by Maine DOT in Brunswick. The trains will mesh with existing freights as well as passenger excursion service run by Maine Eastern RR between Brunswick and Rockland. When the work is completed, Amtrak will extend two of its 5 existing Downeaster trains to Freeport and Brunswick. Cross-platform connections in Brunswick will offer continued service to Rockland. There will also be one daily round trip running just between Brunswick and Portland, with no connection to Boston.
In Brunswick, ME, a 400 foot elevated platform is being built in front of Main Street Station, to serve both the Downeaster and Maine Eastern service. A similar platform is being installed in Freeport, but it will feature both high and low level boarding areas. Canopies, lights, and snow melting heating elements will be part of the new platforms, which will also be fully ADA-compliant. There will be many right-of-way improvements as well along the extended Downeaster route, including 14 culverts replaced, as well as the deck of the Royal River Bridge. The service extension is expected to go into service on time in 2012.
With all the success enjoyed by the Downeaster, the New Hampshire legislature has passed a bill to abolish the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority. The state is in the middle of the 3 states served by the train, but service probably won't suffer, especially with the added city pairs to be offered by the Maine service extension.
The only Downeaster stop in New Hampshire without an operational station building, Exeter may soon get into the game with conversion of an old baggage building into a new intermodal transportation center. The center would give passengere indoor shelter, connections to other modes, rest rooms, and a dedicated area where ticket purchases could take place.