Forecaster Forum: Neighborhood will bear cost of 'Brunswick West' train facility

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We represent approximately 100 families in the Brunswick neighborhoods that will be negatively impacted by the construction of a proposed Amtrak maintenance and layover facility at the “Brunswick West” site between Church Road and Stanwood Street.

We remain deeply concerned that this is the wrong site for this project, and that this is the wrong way to bring healthy development to Brunswick.

Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which will build the facility, cannot guarantee that it has all funds necessary to construct it, nor to mitigate its environmental nuisances. In fact, given the weak state of federal budgets and the economy, Congress may not even continue to fund the Downeaster passenger service in the future, even after the facility is built. If a bill currently being considered in the U.S. House of Representatives passes, federal funding for passenger rail will plummet, putting the Downeaster very much at risk.

Now it appears that riders for the trains the new facility is meant to service may not even materialize. As The Forecaster recently reported, the need for long-term parking at the Maine Street Station “may not be as great as initially expected.” According to Town Manager Gary Brown, NNEPRA’s initial ridership estimates have been revised downward. “We’re not going to see a sudden large spike in passengers the first day the train comes,” Brown has conceded.

Because funds may not exist to locate or build this project correctly, the 100 families who have invested in Brunswick will instead pay – with constant noise, trembling houses, declining home values, negative environmental impacts, and a 60,000-square-foot eyesore that may easily stand empty in just a few years.

That is just not fair.

We, like others in Brunswick, welcome the healthy development promised by expanded passenger train service. But is it necessary to build a train garage in a residential neighborhood? Not when alternatives exist.

At best, the benefits attributed to this project are long-term, abstract, and unknowable. The costs, however, are clear and immediate, and will fall heavily on a small portion of the community that has done nothing but pay its taxes and play by the rules.

Does it really make sense to burden so many for benefits so insubstantial?

Patrick Rael is a member of the Brunswick-West Neighborhood Coalition.

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