Wiscasset became the third of four Midcoast communities to indicate its willing to commit funds to be a part of a Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority plan to bring the Amtrak Downeaster up the coast.

The select board unanimously indicated the town would be willing to build a small platform allowing passengers to enter and leave the train in the event NNEPRA secures funding and gets approval to run its Downeaster service north of Brunswick.

The service is a pilot project dubbed the “Coastal Connection,” and would only run on weekends as a slower excursion designed for tourists stopping in Bath, Wiscasset, Newcastle, and Rockland.

The plan, said NNERPA Executive Director Patricia Quinn, is to more fully utilize train sets already in use by the organization, minimizing the cost – about $200,000 – of the additional run.

A conservative estimate of potential ticket sales is around $100,000, Quinn added.

Wiscasset would need to do more work than some of the other communities. While Bath, Newcastle, and Rockland have existing platforms owned by the Maine Department of Transportation that could be adapted for Amtrak use, Wiscasset would need to construct an entirely new one.

The aim is to have a new platform south of Route 1, near the town’s public boat launch, to prevent snarling of Route 1 traffic.

“They’re not anything that are super-duper fancy,” said Quinn of the platforms.

Jim Russell, NNEPRA’s special projects manager, said that the other platforms in Newcastle and Bath would cost roughly $20,000 to replicate. However, Wiscasset could also build its own platform as long as it meets requirements.

“It just has to be the right height, and the ramp has to be ADA accessible,” he said. “It’s really just a glorified deck.”

The select board was immediately enthusiastic about having the train stop in Wiscasset.

“I think this would be a great thing for Wiscasset,” said Board Chair Judith Colby. “If we could make it happen, I think it would be fantastic.”

Board Member Robert Blagden said the town should be “more than capable” of building a simple platform for the train.

According to Quinn, the service is largely dependent on Rockland’s enthusiasm.

If Rockland, which met about the service Jan. 24, gives final approval, the service will likely travel through the Midcoast regardless of Wiscasset’s participation.

Quinn said that so far Rockland, Newcastle, and now Wiscasset are all aboard. Bath, the last community, will get a chance to react to the proposal in February.

She added that an optimistic timeline would have final decisions on the proposal made this spring, with potential for Amtrak visits this summer.

For more information, visit nnepra.com

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