Mountain Division Alliance is composed of Mountain Division line community stakeholders including all nine communities along the corridor: Portland, Westbrook, Windham, Gorham, Standish/Steep Falls, Baldwin, Hiram, Brownfield, and Fryeburg.
Our Mission is to work with the nine communities along the Mountain Division rail corridor, Maine Department of Transportation, and other organizations and stakeholders to create a safe, welcoming, contiguous trail that connects existing paved portions of the trail to provide for active transportation and recreation opportunities from Fryeburg to Portland.
There are four kinds of rail trails:
There are currently two 5 mile long paved sections, one in Gorham, and one in Fryeburg. The goal is to create a contiguous trail across the state from Portland to Fryeburg (about 55 miles).
Yes, both the Gorham and Fryeburg sections are wheelchair accessible.
Yes, on leash only.
Besides the health, tarnsportation, and community benefits, trails bring in tourists and tourists bring economic benefits to the towns the trails pass through.
A trail in a similar area in Quebec - le P’tit Train du Nord is twice the length (122 miles) of the entire MDT and passes through small towns not unlike our towns in western Maine. The trail tourist office states that 1,000,000 people use the trail each year and they bring in $200M into the local economies. The 62-mile Pine Creek Trail in Pennsylvania gets 200,000 visitors per year who add $5M into the local economies.
The Maine Department of Transportation 2023 work plan includes design/engineering to complete the section of “rail with trail” from route 202 in Windham to Bridge St. in Westbrook.
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No. Most major rail corridors are federally protected in perpetuity (that’s forever!). If the tracks ever need to go back in for train service, they will. This process is known as “railbanking”. Railbanking has been responsible for preserving thousands of miles of rail corridors across the country. To date, more than 350 rail corridors (43 states plus D.C.) have been railbanked, with more than 160 trails open partially or fully on railbanked corridors.
There have been efforts to bring rail service back by a small group who feel that rail will be “the salvation of western Maine.” Unfortunately, neither freight or passenger service was viable in the past and is less viable now. The estimate to bring the rails up to present standards from Portland to Fryeburg would cost approximately $120M (and that’s without train stations). Maine DOT has said in the past that they are not interested in ”spending a penny unless they could find someone who would sign a long term lease” and no rail carrier, passenger or freight, has expressed interest.
For the legislative bill LD 672, a public hearing was held on May 20, 2021 in which over 200 people submitted testimonies in writing and/or orally and 197 were in favor of a trail. From the Rail Use Advisory Council, a public hearing was held on March 31st, 2022 in which over 150 individuals submitted written public comment for consideration. The “trail until rail” option had the most support from those who submitted comments.
When Janet Mills became Governor, the Department of Outdoor Recreation was established. At that time, the Governor directed the Maine DOT Commissioner to look at putting the miles of unused public rail lines to use. The Commissioner in turn created the Rail Use Advisory Council (RUAC) to determine the best use for these public facilities.
A Council of 12 people was formed. This council represented each town between Standish and Fryeburg as well as Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission, 2 members of a rail group (1 chose to drop out), Mountain Division Alliance, Portland Water District, Maine Outdoor Recreation, Greater Portland Council of Governments and Bureau of Parks and Lands. Technical support was provided by 2 members of DOT Rail and Freight Departments.
Experts from rail and trail groups spoke to the Council over the course of nine monthly meetings. They looked at the possible uses and the costs for each.
Three of the possibilities: