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City backs commuter service for Portland, Lewiston-Auburn

The City Council on Monday unanimously endorsed a resolution to explore a commuter service connection between Portland and the Lewiston and Auburn area.
The resolution aims to get the three cities together to explore the creation of a commuter service between the metropolitan areas and work together to explore the feasibility of the service. The resolution does not proscribe a particular transportation provider.
The councils in Lewiston and Auburn have yet to act on the resolution.
"This venture, I think, is very positive," said Mayor Michael Brennan.
The joint resolution for Portland, Lewiston and Auburn would support a feasibility study to look at a commuter service between the two metropolitan areas, and seek state and federal grant funding to pay for the evaluation. The study would include pieces on land use, economic development, environmental impacts, congestion mitigation and economic justice.
"There is a growing need for fast, economical and environmentally sound transit service between Portland, Lewiston and Auburn, that will help employment, medical and entertainment opportunities within our neighboring regions," read the resolution. "The municipalities of both regions support the goal of reducing single-passenger vehicle trips and work toward developing transit service while utilizing existing transit corridors."
The resolution cites the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System and the Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center as potential sources for grant funding.
The study would explore additional topics that weren't addressed by a two-year-old study conducted by the Maine Department of Transportation.
"I think this is a great step forward," said Tony Donovan, of the Maine Rail Transit Coalition. Beyond exploring a transportation service between the communities, Donovan said, the other key aspects of the resolution includes looking at the environment and growing collaboration between the three cities.
"I give it my unqualified support," he said.

•••

In other business:
Earlier in the meeting, the council welcomed a new deputy city manager and unanimously voted to confirm Sheila Hill-Christian to fill the position.Hill-Christian
Hill-Christian will oversee the police, fire, health and human services, public services, recreation and facilities management and parking departments as well as the Portland International Jetport. She will receive a $125,000 salary.
The deputy city manager position was created last year through the elimination of two assistant city manager positions.
City Manager Mark Rees said the key to the success of the reorganization of the administrative positions was finding the right candidate to fill the role of deputy city manager and Hill-Christian is that person.
Rees said Hill-Christian is the best person by virtue of her education, experience and temperament.
"I'm excited about working for the city manager and the staff," Hill-Christian said, and it's a pleasure to work and live in a place like Portland.
Hill-Christian currently runs a consulting group in Richmond that deals with government and nonprofit agencies, according to a press release. Prior to her consulting work, she was the chief administrative officer for the mayor of Richmond, the executive director of the Virginia Lottery, executive director of the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority, chief operating officer of the of the public service company that operates an urban and suburban bus line at the GRTC Transit System, the city's parks, recreation and community facility and director of the city's juvenile justice services.
Hill-Christian received her undergraduate degree at Virginia Commonwealth University and a master's degree from Averett University.

•••

The council honored several people for their accomplishments Monday night, including Joshua O'Brien, director of the Oxford Street Shelter, for receiving the city's Robert B. Ganley Public Service Award; former Acting Fire Chief Stephen Smith for his leadership while the city searched for a replacement for former Chief Fred Lamontagne; former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe for her decades of representing Maine in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives; and Cheryl Leeman for her 18-year tenure with Snowe's office and service to the community.

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