Thursday, September 17, 2015

Lewiston jumps aboard the Kool-Aid Train; will Auburn be far behind?

       Image result for Kool-Aid train

We’ve reported in recent years on the incredible success of Downeaster expansion to Brunswick, and now the enlightenment has spread to other communities in Maine.  As you might expect, they’re jealous of the economic benefits our perfect little town has reaped.  The evidence is everywhere, and we should have known that sooner or later, the secret would get out.

Here’s the news from Lewiston:

Lewiston-Auburn |

Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 9:59 pm

LEWISTON — The city will pay $50,000 to study extending Amtrak rail service from Portland to the Twin Cities.

Councilors voted 5-2 Tuesday night to back a $400,000 Maine Department of Transportation analysis of rail market demand of the new line, a service plan, new construction needed, ways to pay for the work and potential environmental impacts and alternatives.

The study was approved by the Maine Legislature and requires Lewiston and Auburn each to pay a $50,000 share. Auburn councilors are expected to vote on the matter before Nov. 1.

"Our legislative delegation worked very hard to get state money to fund 80 percent of this study," Councilor Nate Libby said. "It will lay out the steps to bring the train 18 miles up the track to Lewiston-Auburn and reconnect us with train service."

Darby Ray, director of the Harward Center for Community Partnerships at Bates College, said regular train service between L-A and Portland would be a good recruiting tool for the school. The college regularly hires faculty and staff who choose to live in Portland, where their spouses work.

"I firmly believe that more faculty and staff would consider locating here — especially as property values skyrocket down there — sending their spouse down on the train to Portland," she said. "I think we need to study this to move forward."

Councilors agreed to pay Lewiston's share of the study out of money left over from the road and utilities development of Gendron Business Park. They also agreed to pay for two other programs with that money: a $5,000 matching grant for L/A Arts to study arts and culture and $20,000 to the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council for a grant to pay for marketing.

Councilor Leslie Dubois said her frustration with paying for studies was why she voted against the rail study funding.

"We have a lot of studies and plans," she said. "What I'd like to actually see is for us to pick one of those plans and spend money on implementing it, rather than spending more money on more plans."

Sounds like Leslie Dubois is headed for the ash-heap of ‘community pride.’  How could that happen?

They must have a spin-off of AAB up there by now; we figure the head cheerleader and the Booch are up there organizing as we type.  “AAL” and “AAA;” we can see the cute little stickers in our mind’s eye.  We hope they can make a convert of Leslie, before she’s driven out of town on a rail.

The article above mentions Legislative plans to spend nearly half a million studying the idea.  Funny, because just four years ago, Maine’s Department of Transportation issued a 100+ page study of exactly this subject.  From the looks of the report, it must have cost a goodly number of taxpayer shekels, only to ge relegated to a file cabinet somewhere.

You can find it here: MDOT Aug 11 Portland to LA Feas.

Perhaps you don’t want to take the time to open it up and read it.  Fine; that’s what you have us for.  Here’s a telling excerpt from the study that addresses passenger rail expansion to Auburn:

MDOT Aug 11 Portland North 1

MDOT Aug 11 Portland North 2

How could anyone refuse such a stunning opportunity?  Only $107 million to $234 million to create this new expansion.  But the return on ‘investment’ makes it all worthwhile, at least if you’re a “Koolie,” which is what we’re going to call the passenger rail groupies from now on.  Per this study, the service will only require about a 75% (or higher) annual operating subsidy, which means the investment will have been paid back NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS!

The Downeaster, in the current time frame, operates with a subsidy of about 55%, so by comparison, it looks like a real winner for use of public dollars.


As we hear things, Tony Donovan, a Portland based real estate developer, has been the primary advocate pushing the Lewiston City Council to fund their share of the new study.  Donovan reportedly promised to provide Lewiston officials with economic benefit data documenting  Brunswick’s remarkable rail driven success, but was unable to deliver the data on time because of ‘car troubles.’ 

He should have known he could call Brunswick Taxi anytime, and get a free ride courtesy of Amtrak and Brunswick taxpayers.  As you might expect, the council approved the expenditure anyway, knowing that real estate developers looking to do business in town are as trustworthy as they come.  So the keepers of the public trust are certain they did the right thing.

Inquiring minds, of which there are not all that many, might wonder why a new study is required, when a comprehensive one on the exact same subject is already on the record.  We could suggest that if at first you don’t get the results you wanted, just keep doing more studies until you do.  We could, but we won’t, because we’re not in the business of second-guessing unscrupulous developers looking to enrich themselves at the expense of local taxpayers, and state taxpayers as well.  As you well know, we have a reputation to protect.

While Mr. Donovan gets his car fixed, we thought he might want to read the series now running in the Ostrich that documents local commercial/economic success in the Cooks Corner area.

    TR article on Cooks Corner sept 15 2015

It’s going to be a four-part series, so Donovan has plenty of time to get his car repairs done.

You might recall that we did our own report on this subject a few months back, but only the Ostrich can bring the credibility of mainstream journalism to the subject.   You can see what we wrote here:

Ostrich staff is a good three months behind on keeping up with us, but we’re use to it.  Imagine if we hadn’t stuck a pin in that feathery behind of theirs; they still wouldn’t have come up for air.


Now that they’re on the trail, maybe they can look into this consulting team, lined up by our friend Tony, now planning its campaign in Auburn.  All it takes is the right medicine to work municipal miracles.

You can trust us on this; we’re not like all the others.  We’ve seen the dream come true, right here in Cape Brunswick. 

Shirley you have too.

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