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DNC Disruptions move north

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Downeaster stymied by bridge repair

By Associated Press, 8/3/2004 02:15

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) Passengers on Amtrak's Downeaster between Portland and Boston are making part of the trip by bus for at least another day.

The train has been unable to make its full run because of structural problems with a bridge that passes over railroad tracks in Kennebunk.

Repairs were continuing on the highway overpass that buckled during an overhaul of the tracks underneath last week. The work sent debris tumbling onto the tracks below, making them impassable.

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority cobbled together a system in which riders took buses from Portland to Wells on Sunday and Monday. From there, they were able to take the Downeaster to Boston.

Passengers who arrived in Portland by bus Monday shrugged off the problems with a minimum of griping, said Joe Trudo, 60, a Pennsylvania man who rode the train from Boston and then boarded a bus at Wells.

Conductors in North Station informed the passengers about the need to switch to buses, he said. There were no complaints, he said, but some elderly passengers were confused.

''It was well organized, and the coaches were nice,'' he said. ''It all went smoothly.''

The rail authority, which operates the Downeaster, said the bus alternative was continuing Tuesday and that regular Downeaster service was expected to resume within the ''next day or so.''

The bridge problem occurred last week during rail repairs undertaken while the Downeaster was shut down because of security concerns related to the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Workers were in the process of strengthening the railbed in Kennebunk when the Route 35 overpass buckled.

The bridge is being removed and a temporary replacement is expected to be in place in a week or two.

The problem for the state-subsidized rail service comes at the height of tourist season and at a time when officials were supposed to be heralding the train's new top speed of 79 mph.

It's a double blow for the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which has seen ridership drop this week while Amtrak has to spend a couple of thousand dollars a day to bus people between Portland and Wells.

The weeklong shutdown during the Democratic convention cost the Downeaster $100,000 in lost revenue.

From Boston.com

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