Amtrak Downeaster route extension to open November 1

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PORTLAND, Maine – The extension of Amtrak’s Downeaster service from Portland northward to Freeport and Brunswick, Maine, will begin on Nov. 1, ahead of the Thanksgiving travel and holiday shopping seasons. The Downeaster currently makes five round-trips daily between Portland and Boston. Beginning November 1, two of those round-trips will serve Freeport and Brunswick.

The Downeaster currently serves eight communities between Boston and Portland: Old Orchard Beach, Saco, and Wells, Maine; Dover, Durham, and Exeter, N.H.; and Haverhill and Woburn, Mass. The service is coming off a record year, carrying 528,292 passengers in fiscal year 2012. Fiscal year 2013 year-to-date ridership is 9.1 percent greater than last year.

The Downeaster service expansion required a multi-million dollar rehabilitation of 30 miles of track, owned primarily by Pan Am Railways, between Portland and Brunswick. The two-year construction project was funded primarily with a $38.3 million grant from the American Recovery and Rehabilitation Act, and began in the summer of 2010. To date, more than 30 miles of rail and 33,000 ties have been installed, 36 grade crossings have been rehabilitated, and two station platforms have been constructed between Portland and Brunswick. The remaining track work and signal work is to be completed in the coming weeks.

The extension to Freeport, home to L.L. Bean’s flagship store and outlet shopping, and Brunswick, home of Bowdoin College, is expected to generate more than 30,000 new riders annually.

Beginning Nov. 1, the Downeaster will make two round-trips daily between Brunswick and Boston, including stops in Freeport and all other Downeaster stations. Southbound trains will depart Brunswick at 7:05 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. weekdays, arriving at Boston’s North Station at 10:30 a.m. and 9:15 p.m. respectively. Northbound trains will depart Boston at 9:05 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays, arriving in Brunswick at 12:25 p.m. and 8:25 p.m. Weekend and holiday schedules will vary slightly. Passengers can make reservations for travel to/from Freeport and Brunswick beginning Oct. 1, 2012.

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority and Amtrak also announced minor changes to the existing schedule between Portland and Boston. Effective Oct. 15, on weekdays the first southbound departure from Portland will be 20 minutes earlier to allow commuters to get to work in Boston earlier. The 5:40 p.m. departure from Boston has been temporarily changed to 6:45 p.m., and the last southbound departure from Portland will leave one hour earlier at 6:45 p.m. On weekends, the northbound 6:45 p.m. departure has been changed to 8:00 p.m.

Seasonal service to Old Orchard Beach will terminate on Oct. 14, 2012 and resume in the spring of 2013. For more information, visit www.amtrakdowneaster.com.
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