Brunswick will seek railroad quiet zone

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BRUNSWICK — The town will apply for a railroad quiet zone after Pan Am Railways finishes installing a device to make the eastern end of the Amtrak Downeaster layover facility accessible.

Town Manager John Elderidge on Monday told the Town Council Pan Am is expected to be finished with the installation by Jan. 1, 2018.

Emily Tynes of Gorrill Palmer presented the engineering company’s report on Brunswick’s eligibility and the requirements of federal quiet zones at the Dec. 4 council meeting. The company has not yet come up with an estimate of how much quiet zone implementation would cost.

Brunswick’s proposed quiet zone consists of crossings at Highland, Grant and Church roads, Stanwood, Union and Maine streets and at Park Row.

Tynes also outlined the measures that will be necessary to maintain the quiet zones when the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority’s Royal Junction Siding Project is complete, and if the Downeaster route is extended to Rockland.

Tynes said all crossings in a proposed quiet zone must have specific safety features, including flashing lights and gates. To ensure a quiet zone meets the requirements, supplemental safety measures, including non-traversable median strips or permanent closures of roads, could be installed at every crossing in the proposed area.

The area can also meet the requirement if the Federal Railroad Administration deems the risk in a quiet zone is equal to or less than the national standards without the implementation of additional safety measures, or if the installation of the measures at some of the designated crossings will lower the area’s risk to that point.

If additional safety measures are taken at some crossings in a proposed zone, reducing the risk to at least the level that would exist if horns were sounded at every crossing, a quiet zone can also meet the criteria.

Tynes said none of Brunswick’s crossings meet the requirements, but the modification to the tracks on the eastern end of the layover facility in the Bouchard Drive-Stanwood Street neighborhood will make the proposal eligible. When modifications are complete, there will be less noise from switching tracks now required for east- and west-bound trains.

The other two scenarios Tynes outlined – when the Royal Junction Project is finished, and if the Downeaster route is extended to Rockland – will require additional safety measures.

The second scenario is to close the Park Row crossing and incorporate Jordan Avenue into the proposal, which would include Royal Junction. The Royal Junction initiative includes adding more track along the route from Boston to Brunswick to accommodate more trips.

The third scenario would include  Jordan Avenue, close Park Row and install non-traversable medians on Jordan Avenue. The medians would allow the quiet zone to include the Downeaster’s extension to Rockland.

In all of the scenarios, the quiet zone will need to be evaluated annually by the Federal Railroad Administration and is not guaranteed to qualify every year.

Eldridge said once the eastern end of the layover facility is usable, the town can meet with the FRA and submit an application for a quiet zone in the proposed areas. The application is based on what measures the town has in place at the time it is submitted.

Councilors voted unanimously to allow Eldridge to submit the application when Pan Am’s work is complete.

Chairwoman Alison Harris said the council should also be proactive in getting rough estimates of how much the Royal Junction scenario would cost, since it is projected to be finished by the end of 2018.

“We know Royal Junction is coming online eventually,” Harris said.

Councilors Jane Millett and Dan Harris also expressed interest in forming a committee of citizens and councilors to discuss issues related to the trains and other complaints going forward.

“The council does not have a monopoly on wisdom on these issues,” Harris said.

Harris suggested the idea of forming such a committee be re-visited in January.

Other Business

The council also scheduled two public hearings, both related to the Cook’s Corner Omnibus development at Brunswick Landing, following presentations by Director of Economic Development Linda Smith.

Both hearings will be on Dec. 18. The first will deal with the town drafting an application to form a tax increment financing district at the site. Forming a TIF in the area would provide another means of funding the Cook’s Corner Connector Road Project.

The second will concern two amendments to the program, which would allow tax increment financing within the district to fund debt service on projects deemed eligible.

The council also voted 5-4 to add a resident member to the Elementary School Building Committee. The committee discusses matters related to the $28 million elementary school project approved by voters in June.

Councilor John Perrault said he could not support the motion, since an additional member was already recently added to the committee. Councilor Suzan Wilson echoed that.

“We just formed this,” Wilson said. “Let’s see what it can do.”

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

Gorill Palmer presented a report at the Brunswick Town Council’s Dec. 4 meeting on implementing quiet zones for the Downeaster commuter train.