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Amtrak Downeaster rolls to Brunswick

Amtrak’s Downeaster carried 528,292 passengers last year

obert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

Amtrak’s Downeaster carried 528,292 passengers last year

PORTLAND, Maine — Amtrak’s Downeaster is ready to roll northward to Freeport and Brunswick with the service kicking off Nov. 1, ahead of Thanksgiving travel and holiday shopping, officials said Wednesday.

Banners announcing the new service and schedule adjust­ments were going up in stations along the route Wednesday, said Patricia Quinn, director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority. Tickets for the travel to Freeport and Brunswick go on sale on Oct. 1.

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‘‘It’s a huge milestone,’’ Quinn said Wednesday. ‘‘Really, the service expanding to Freeport and Brunswick was always part of the plan. When we inaugurated the service in 2001, it was supposed to happen in a couple of years. To make it ­finally happen is pretty exciting.’’

The Downeaster is coming off a record year with 528,292 passengers.

Initially, two of the five daily round trips between Portland and Boston will travel to Brunswick. The expanded service is expected to add 36,000 passengers each year, Quinn said.

Joe Boardman, Amtrak president, said the expanded rail service ‘‘coincides with record ridership demand on both the Downeaster and rail travel throughout the country.’’

Expanding the Downeaster northward to Freeport, home to L.L. Bean’s flagship store and outlet shopping, and Brunswick, home of Bowdoin College, required improvements to more than 30 miles of track, ­rehabilitation of 36 crossings, and construction of two station platforms. Remaining track work will be completed in weeks.

Most of the track upgrades were funded through $38.3 million in federal stimulus dollars.

The Downeaster currently serves eight communities between Boston and Portland: Old Orchard Beach, Saco, and Wells in Maine; Dover, Durham and Exeter in New Hampshire; and Haverhill and Woburn in Massachusetts.

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