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Good morning. This is Governor John Baldacci.

This week, President Obama announced that Maine has been awarded $35 million dollars to expand the Downeaster passenger rail service north from Portland to Brunswick.

The award will create hundreds of jobs, generating millions of dollars in economic development along the line.

Passengers will be able to visit Brunswick and Freeport, two of Maine’s most popular destinations.

And the service will help support our efforts to redevelopment the Midcoast region in the wake of the closing of the Brunswick Naval Air Station.

The grant is part of an $8 billion dollar program included in the federal Recovery Act to expand rail service throughout the country.

It’s an important investment in our future that will pay off for Maine.

The Downeaster has carried 2.7 million passengers and taken 224 million passenger-miles off highways, which mean roads are less congested and our air is cleaner.

The service has been operating between Boston and Portland since 2001 and is one of Amtrak’s most successful lines in the nation.

By extending service to Freeport and Brunswick, ridership will continue to grow, and more communities will be served.

More than 28 miles of track will be replaced. 30,000 ties will be laid and 36 crossings will be improved.

What do those numbers mean? People will be put to work almost immediately.

Businesses will grow. Tourism will expand. And communities will be better connected.

The project can be completed in two construction seasons, which means passengers could be able to travel from Freeport and Brunswick to Portland and Boston by as early as 2012.

But the impact of this investment doesn’t stop in those communities.

The rail improvements also provide a necessary link to the further expansion of passenger rail to Lewiston-Auburn and then, eventually, on to Montreal.

Communities throughout Maine will be connected to a national rail network, making it easier and more efficient to travel.

The expansion will be managed by the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which has experience developing significant rail projects.

For nearly 20 years, we have been working to revitalize passenger rail service in Northern New England.

A coalition of advocates including TrainRiders/Northeast, business and community leaders has worked to build support and create a plan to integrate passenger rail into their communities.

And Intercity Passenger Rail service has been a long-term goal for our State and my administration.

In 2006, I issued an Executive Order reaffirming support for completing the Downeaster.

And in 2008, the Legislature passed and I signed the “Rail Improvement Act” to provide funding to sustain Downeaster operations and complete service to Brunswick.

Maine, time and again, has shown its commitment to rail.

We have developed public-private partnerships to open freight rail services to industry.

We have supported the Downeaster.

Protected rail lines and right-a-ways.

And done the work to prepare for quick action.

Our economy is stronger when both passengers and shippers have more transportation options.

We know that rail is good for the environment. But it’s also critical for our economy and for connecting our communities together.

The plans are ready. The agreements have been made. And we’re ready to put this important grant to work – creating jobs and new economic development now.

This award would not have been possible without President Obama, Vice President Biden, Sen. Snowe, Sen. Collins, Rep. Pingree and Rep. Michaud and the passage of the Recovery Act.

As the six New England states agreed last July, the Downeaster is a national model for the successful introduction of new intercity passenger rail service.

With the expansion of the service north, the success of the Downeaster will grow, bringing our communities closer together and increasing opportunity for our people.

It’s job creation today and for the long run and a good investment for our people and our economy.

Thank you and have a great weekend.

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