NNEPRA Board Meeting - March, 2012

Downeaster Performance Numbers, both ridership and revenue, showed very strong growth during the first two months of 2012. Executive Director Patricia Quinn reported January ridership increased by 8.7% over January of 2011 and February ridership was up 11.7% over the same period of last year!

march12

President Signs 3-Month Extension of Transportation Bill

UPDATE:

The president has signed a three-month extension of the transportation bill. The Republican-led House refused to hold a vote on the Senate version (detailed below). Funding for the Downeaster, Amtrak and other transportation projects remains intact until June 30th. More information at Politico.com.

EARLIER:

The US Senate, by a bi-partisan vote of 74-22 in mid-March, passed a two-year $109 billion surface transportation authorization bill which maintains the ability of Maine to continue to use CMAQ funds (around $6 million) to support a large portion of the Downeaster's operating budget.

snoweSenator Olympia Snowe succeeded in adding an amendment to the bill which authorized the continued use of those funds for state-operated railroads. She was justifiably proud of her accomplishment:

A Tale of Two New Hampshires

NH Executive Committee Says 'No' to Federal Rail Grant: The NH Executive Council, which has the power to approve/disapprove most state contracts, frustrated an act of the state legislature and undercut the governor's leadership by killing, by a 3-2 vote, a federally-funded (USDOT) study of the passenger rail potential of the Boston-Nashua-Manchester-Concord corridor. This rail initiative had survived the legislative process - no easy accomplishment - and was supported by the governor.

Here's an article from the Concord Monitor on the session and the issues.

What's next?

NNEPRA Responds to Questions from Layover Facility Opponents at Brunswick Town Council Meeting

The Brunswick Town Council devoted much of its evening meeting this week to the Downeaster Layover Facility that will be constructed in a rail yard along the tracks in West Brunswick.

pquinnbwickNNEPRA Executive Director Patricia Quinn presented a detailed explanation of the facility and the efforts to mitigate noise, pollution and vibration concerns which the Brunswick West Neighborhood Group continues to raise. Many of the group's members spoke in opposition to facility or the data presented.

Maine Senate & House US Delegations Push Downeaster Legislation

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and Senator Olympia Snow are introducing legislation to preserve some $6 million in federal funding for the Downeaster.

This comes on the heels of House legislation that would eliminate CMAQ funding for state-operated railroads. The Downeaster has benefited from that policy for the last 10 years.

Latest report from the Kennebec Journal.{jcomments on}

NH State Rail Plan Open for Public Input

The NHDOT has informed the public of a series of hearings leading to an updated rail plan for the state. The public forums will address both freight and passenger rail service.

This is of particular interest to those who have pursued passenger rail service for residents in the interior of the state. The near-coastal cities of Dover, Durham and Exeter are currently served by the Maine-operated Downeaster.

Full details at Fosters.com.{jcomments on}

US House Transportation Bill Targets Downeaster Federal Funding

Here we go again - TNEMembers and Friends:

The House version of the Transportation Bill (HR 7) does NOT continue an important exemption on the use of Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funding which currently provides about 80% or $6M of the Downeaster's annual operating costs.