A Maine rail trail is getting one step closer to connecting Fryeburg to Portland for a 28-mile continuous trail.

The Mountain Division Trail is named after the rail line operated by the Maine Central Railroad that ran 131 miles from Portland to St. Johnsbury, Vermont. In 1981, the Maine Central was bought by Guildford Transportation, now Pan Am Railways and soon to be CSX, who stopped service on it from Westbrook west. The tracks and the land they sit on within Maine were purchased by the State in 1993 to keep the route available for any future freight or passenger service.

Almost 30 years later there have been no customers on the line, but the tracks remain in several sections of the line. Many sections have paved or dirt trails for walking, running, and biking.

The long term goal is to have a continuous trail from Freyburg to Portland, but that costs a lot of money, so small sections of the old railroad line have had trails built as funds allow.

The Town of Windham, which the Mountain Division Trail runs through posted on their Facebook page Monday that the Maine DOT has approved funding for the engineering and design of the five miles to extend the Mountain Division Trail from Windham to Westbrook. The trail currently ends in Windham near the Windham Correctional facility.

The project will take about two years to complete the Windham to Westbrook, but in order to connect to Portland in the future, the trail will have to take a different route along the old rail line as it is active from Sappi Paper into Portland.

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