Bills Would Support Expanded Statewide Rail Service

Mar 2, 2017

Environmentalists and conservation advocates are lending their support to a number of bills that would promote the expansion of freight and passenger rail service to more areas of the state.

During a State House press conference Thursday, Tony Donovan of the Sierra Club said support is building for approval of a $50 million bond package to fund rail infrastructure improvement along with a number of other bills, including one tied to Maine’s recreational marijuana law.

“The new tax revenues that are expected from the sale of recreational marijuana we see as an opportunity to fund investment in passenger rail, as a way of supporting freight transportation, particularly for the agricultural industry, trying to tie marijuana as an agricultural product to supporting agriculture in the state of Maine,” he said.

A measure sponsored by Camden state Sen. David Miramant would allow communities to collaborate as transit districts to provide federal rail funding.

“There is money for these districts at the federal level, we don’t need to take our limited infrastructure money that we have to pay for here in Maine,” he said.

Other rail bills include one that increases taxes on short-term rental cars for rail expansion and another to enlarge the role of the state’s rail authority in extending passenger rail.