Brunswick railroad quiet zone expansion may get 2nd look

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BRUNSWICK — The town may be required to install, at its own expense, more safety measures at the railroad crossings on Stanwood and Union streets to qualify for quiet zones.

The Federal Railway Administration rejected the town’s application for quiet zones at the two streets late last year, Town Engineer John Foster told councilors in a presentation Monday.

Wayne Duffett, a consulting engineer who has worked with other Maine communities on quiet zones, is reviewing Brunswick’s application and is expected to bring recommendations and a quote for his services to the town in the next two weeks, Foster said. 

Working with a knowledgeable consultant will help the town come up with “cost-effective” ways to make the crossings safer and qualify for quiet zones, he told councilors. 

The crossings at Maine Street and Park Row have had quiet zones since 2007, prohibiting passing trains from sounding their horns to warn vehicle drivers and pedestrians. 

In 2012, Brunswick applied for quiet zones at the Stanwood and Union crossings. The application was denied by the FRA last fall after Pan Am Railways disputed the town’s estimate of annual train trips across the crossings.

According to Foster, Pan Am’s estimates were slightly higher, putting the crossings above the FRA-designated safety threshold.

Because the crossings are above the threshold, trains must sound their horns to warn nearby traffic and pedestrians when they are passing. 

If it decides to reapply for quiet zones, the town will likely have to invest in additional safety measures, like quadruple gates or traffic islands at the two crossings to bring them above the risk threshold, Foster said.

Peter L. McGuire can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or pmcguire@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter @mcguiremidcost.

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Hearing set on money for town offices

BRUNSWICK — The Town Council’s proposal to appropriate up to $150,000 for renovations to the new municipal offices will have a public hearing early next month. 

The money, drawn from the town’s general fund, will be used to pay remaining bills from the renovation of the Station Avenue building, formally owned by Bowdoin College.

An additional appropriation will “close the gap” between what the town has spent so far and what it still owes, interim Town Manager John Eldridge told councilors on Monday.

Eldridge said costs are expected to be “substantially less” than the $150,000 requested, and councilors will have updated figures before the June 2 public hearing. 

Employees moved into their new offices last month. 

Last December, former Town Manager Gary Brown estimated renovations and moving the town offices would cost $100,000. But costs ballooned, and in February Eldridge put the project’s price tag at $1.23 million. 

— Peter McGuire

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