The announcement that Amtrak will expand service to Brunswick and that Maine Eastern Railroad in Rockland will provide connecting passenger service to Brunswick is great news for the Midcoast.

The more forms of transportation that are available in the Midcoast the better it is for our economic development as well as our environment.

The federal government announced Jan. 28 that Maine will receive $35 million in economic recovery act grants to upgrade the railroad lines from Portland to Brunswick. Within two years, people in Rockland will be able to step aboard a train at the station on Union Street and travel to Brunswick, Portland, Boston and beyond.

This is the type of long-term investment needed to retrofit our economy. Gasoline prices will rise again, perhaps even more sharply than in the past. Alternative forms of transportation are needed to wean ourselves from foreign oil. The environmental benefits of such alternatives will be obvious as fewer cars will be on the highway, reducing exhaust that leads to high levels of ground-level ozone during the summer.

And from an economic development standpoint, the benefit from the expansion of train service is also obvious. Not only will Rockland area residents be able to use the train but the service will also attract more visitors to our region. This will give Rockland an advantage that many other tourist destinations will not have.

There has been much criticism of federal spending but the country needs to invest in its transportation system. For too many years, too little attention and too few dollars have been directed toward mass transportation.

 

Health care reform still needed

The election of a Republican senator in Massachusetts means the death of true health care reform, according to many analysts.

But this is simply a short-term distraction. The reform of the system is still one of the greatest needs in the United States. While generating jobs will help provide health insurance for citizens who get that work, this will still leave millions of citizens without affordable access to medical care.

Now is the time for Congress to work together for real health care reform. At the very least, such reform should include increased oversight of private insurers to make sure they do not cherry pick healthy clients and leave those who are ill without coverage.

The nation spoke in November 2008. The election in one state should not override the wishes of the greater number.