BRUNSWICK — The Town Council will invite the owners, operators, and regulators who oversee the Amtrak Downeaster to a special meeting to discuss mitigating noise from late-night trains.
Councilor Sarah Brayman proposed the face-to-face meeting Monday night after months of emails failed to remedy the trains waking residents at night.
At the same meeting, councilors appropriated $75,000 in TIF revenues to finalized engineering plans for a road that would provide an alternative entrance to Brunswick Landing from Cooks Corner.
They also placed an emergency moratorium on medical marijuana storefronts, which will run concurrently with an existing ban on retail stores that expires Nov. 17.
Since an Amtrak layover near Bouchard Drive and Stanwood Street started operating last November, west Brunswick residents have complained about being awakened by trains sounding their horns at nearby crossings and as they enter the barn at night.
Some of them are not surprised: they opposed the barn’s construction for fear it would cause disruption.
At that time, residents and councilors said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, told them the barn would dampen noise from idling trains, but didn’t mention an increase in the federally mandated horns required at street crossings and as trains enter the layover facility.
“(Quinn) sold me on a way to reduce idling and fumes, but never brought up the horn noise,” Councilor Steve Walker said.
“This is a plea for help,” John Howell, a Bouchard Drive resident and father of two young children, told the council Monday. “They didn’t listen to us citizens then, so please, help us.”
Councilors were sympathetic to the concerns – many reported they have also been woken up by trains – but unsure how much control they have over the frequency and severity of the horns, and will be looking for more clarity at the proposed meeting.
The council is also embarking on a long-term solution of imposing quiet zones at problem intersections, specifically at Union Street, Stanwood Street and Church Road.
Councilor Jane Millett repeated her suspicion that the issue is an Amtrak oversight problem. Brayman said she spoke to an engineer who suggested train operators may be able to reduce the intensity of the blasts.
The 7-1 vote to fund a final engineering design for a 1,500-foot, three-lane connector from Gurnet Road to Admiral Fitch Avenue doesn’t mean the council is sold on it.
Several unknowns still loom over the project, including whether abutters who might benefit from the connection will contribute to construction costs, in addition to providing the property and rights of way where the road is proposed. The road will otherwise be paid for with TIF funds.
Town Manager John Eldridge pushed to expedite the final design in case the town wanted to build the road this winter, which, he said, could reduce the estimated $2 million cost of the project.
The temporary ban on medical marijuana storefronts will not affect an application for a project on Bath Road, which the Planning Board will review Sept. 12. The application has standing because it was submitted before notice of the public hearing about the ban was posted, Planning Director Anna Breinich said.
Councilors justified the ban as a time to give the Planning Department a chance to review zoning around pot storefronts.
West Brunswick residents Matt Miller and John Howell, both of Bouchard Drive, asked the Town Council Sept. 5 to help mitigate the noise from train horns in their neighborhood.