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Downeaster begins rolling north to Freeport, Brunswick

7:14 PM, Nov 1, 2012   |    comments
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BRUNSWICK, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- After years of waiting, people in Mid-coast Maine finally have their train. Eleven years after coming to Portland, Amtrak's Downeaster officially started service between Brunswick and Boston.

Big crowds and high school bands turned out in both towns to welcome the train today. It was a special, inaugural train, filled with local and state leaders, railroad officials and people who have worked for years to bring train service back.

The trip actually began in Boston, with a ceremony that included Massachusetts transportation officials. A dance troupe from Portland, wearing "Maine" sweatshirts, performed for the crowd. The Downeaster is being marketed in Boston as "The Train to Maine", with special posters promoting shopping at L.L. Bean and visits to inns in Brunswick.

The Portland-to-Brunswick project had been discussed for at least eight years, but there wasn't enough money to rebuild the tracks. Then, as a result oif the Federal Stimulus Program, the Obama Administration provided $35 million to do the work. The Maine DOT built new passenger platforms at both Freeport and the Brunswick station.

Residents and business owners in both towns predict the train will bring a lot of people to visit, and patronize stores, restaurants, hotels and inns.Early forecasts from the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which manages the Downeaster service, suggest 100 people will ride the train each day between Brunswick and Boston. Business groups are hoping to grow that number through added promotion. In Freeport, for example, they're already planning to bring in an extra Amtrak train during their Christmas season "Sparkle Weekend". The train will be decorated and used for readings of The Polar Express.

Regular Downeaster service between Brunswick and Boston begins Friday, with two round trips per day.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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