WASHINGTON – Expanded Amtrak service, revamping the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad and expanding passenger service to Acadia National Park are the top priorities of Rep. John Baldacci, who joined a newly organized House subcommittee on railroads this week.
The panel is part of the House Transportation Committee. The Railroads Subcommittee will be responsible for authorizing measures that deal with the nation’s rail infrastructure.
Baldacci, D-Maine, will continue to serve on the same committee’s Aviation Subcommittee. To gain the rail slot, he left the panel’s Water Subcommittee.
He said the Bangor & Aroostook railroad will be a key focus for him.
Rail America, a Florida holding company, had expressed interest in acquiring the freight hauler, which operates 407 miles of track within Maine. The company is now owned by Iron Road Railways Inc.
Baldacci said he hopes the state will look to assist in keeping the line in operation and “find alternatives” if it appears B&A can’t make it.
He said he would help state and federal rail officials find alternatives.
“The importance is that [B&A] accesses the ports and the transportation of goods from Northern Maine to the Boston markets,” Baldacci said.
On the subcommittee, which will be chaired by Rep. Jack Quinn, R-N.Y., Baldacci will enjoy a special high-profile focus on the reconstitution of Amtrak, which continues to face financial woes.
Amtrak will make its maiden voyage from Boston to Portland on May 1, with the expectation that the carrier will extend service to Brunswick, then eventually to Montreal.
“This subcommittee gives Maine a voice on the decisions that involve Amtrak,” Baldacci said, indicating that improving rail beds and increasing safety are two issues he wants to probe.
Baldacci said he sought the assignment – along with the seat on the Aviation Subcommittee – because Maine faces problems of isolation if its transportation infrastructure isn’t maintained.
Separately, he said that he’ll work to support an expanded rail line from Bangor to Acadia National Park as part of a state-driven effort to expand tourism promotion.