Brunswick railroad quiet zone process chugs along

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BRUNSWICK — The town is awaiting a response from the Federal Railroad Administration to its application for a second railroad quiet zone that would stretch from the Brunswick-Freeport line to Union Street.

Town Manager John Eldridge gave an update on the process at the June 4 meeting of the Town Council.

Also Monday, councilors unanimously approved a resolution supporting a National Carbon Fee and Dividend Policy and the transfer of $4,200 in drug forfeiture assets to the Police Department.

Eldridge said it will likely be July or August before “anything can happen” regarding the new quiet zone, since the FRA has until June 20 to respond to the the town’s application for the Brunswick West Quiet Zone.

The town began discussions about implementing a second quiet zone last November, during a workshop with rail officials. That followed complaints from residents in the Bouchard Drive-Stanwood Street neighborhood about noise from the Amtrak Downeaster layover facility. 

A quiet zone is a designated area where trains are directed to cease routine sounding of horns when approaching public crossings, and can reduce noise in neighborhoods where trains frequently pass through at late hours.

Brunswick’s implementation process is taking longer than originally expected, Eldridge said, due to changes made to the areas the quiet zone would cover.

The original plan was to have the new quiet zone span from Park Row to the Freeport town line, and did not require any additional modifications to the rail crossings. 

The FRA, however, suggested the different range for the new quiet zone due to the existence of another quiet zone the town has at Park Row and Maine Street. That requires additional safety measures at crossings at Stanwood Street and Church Road.

“The original plan, which was (Park Row) to Freeport, would’ve required none of this,” Eldridge said. “It was a 60-day notice, you put up the signs, and that would be the end of it.”

After the town’s engineers provided survey and design work for the safety measures, the application was submitted April 20. It was told the document is not likely to be reviewed prior to the end of a required 60-day comment period.

The alternative safety measures, Eldridge said, “should be relatively inexpensive.”

He also said Pan-Am Railways has completed the installation of an interlocking mechanism outside of the Amtrak layover facility, which has made the eastern end of the building usable and reduced some noise.

Other business

All councilors voted in favor of a resolution supporting a National Fee and Dividend Policy, which was brought to the Recycling and Sustainability Committee last fall by representatives from the Brunswick-Bath Chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby, an international environmental group.

According to documents provided by the group, a carbon and dividend policy would “put a federal price on carbon-based fuels so that their consumer cost reflects their true cost to society.”

The system, it states, will “account for the cost of burning fossil fuels in the price consumers pay,” by placing a steadily rising fee on fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, and then give 100 percent of the net fees back to U.S. households each month.

It would also involve using a border adjustment to prevent businesses from relocating outside the United States and tariffs would be imposed for goods entering the U.S. from countries without comparable carbon fees.

The vote followed a presentation by Dodie Jones, a Brunswick resident and co-leader of the local chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby.

Jones told councilors one reason to support the resolution is because the negative impacts of climate change are felt locally, citing residents’ health, the economy of Brunswick, livelihoods, marine resources, tourism, property and infrastructure as aspects of life threatened by it.

Jones called the fee and dividend system a “tried and true method.”

“If you increase the price of something, people are going to consume less of it and they’ll look for alternatives that cost less,” she said. “Most economists agree that putting a price on carbon is the most cost-effective method of transitioning to a clean energy economy.”

Every councilor, barring Christopher Watkinson, who was absent, expressed their support for the resolution. 

At-large Councilor Alison Harris said though some people may call approving the resolution “virtue voting,” she thinks the town needs to “play its part” in the issue too.

Councilors also approved transferring $4,200 in drug forfeiture assets from an August 2017 drug bust to the Brunswick Police Department, pending court approval.

Chief Richard Rizzo told councilors that 750 hits of heroin were taken in the arrest, as well as 56 hits of crack cocaine, and almost 500 Xanax, which is a sedative.

Cops also seized $10,500 from a motel room, and Rizzo said the force gets 40 percent of the funds if it is approved by a judge; he added he does not know what the money will be used for, but can generally be used for any type of law enforcement.

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente

Brunswick doesn’t expect to get a response for several months to its request for a railroad quiet zone from the Freeport line to Union Street.