By Alan Wirzbicki, Globe Correspondent
WASHINGTON - In a boost to the Northeast's passenger rail network, Maine today received $35 million from the Obama administration to extend Amtrak's popular Downeaster service 30 miles north from Portland.
The grant will provide service from Boston's North Station to Freeport and Brunswick.
"We're thrilled," said Patricia Quinn, the executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority that operates the service. "It's a great thing for tourism to be able to take a train to the doorstop of LL Bean without having to add any cars and congestion."
There are currently five trains between North Station and Portland, and Quinn said two of them would contine on to Brunswick. The project will create about 200 jobs, Quinn said.
A second Maine application to raise train speeds on the existing line between Portland and Boston, however, was rejected.
The grants are part of $8 billion in high-speed rail funds that were released by the Obama administration today from the economic stimulus package.
The other main New England beneficiary of today's announcements is a route linking New Haven to Western Massachusetts and Vermont. The three states received a total of $160 million for the project, which will restore passenger service to Northampton, Holyoke, and Greenfield.
Massachusetts officials did receive some disappointing news, however. A proposal to use the high-speed rail to fund the long-desired South Coast rail project to New Bedford and Fall River did not make the cut.
Nationally, the majority of the funds are going to Florida, the Midwest, and California. The Golden State alone received $2.35 billion -- more than a quarter of the overall amount distributed today.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.