Brunswick train layover facility moves forward, opposition continues
BRUNSWICK — Construction of a $12 million train layover facility is moving forward after the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority secured federal funding and awarded a design and construction contract Monday.
Patricia Quinn, NNEPRA executive director, said the facility will allow the Amtrak Downeaster train to add one round trip between Brunswick and Boston, set the stage for future rail improvements and mitigate noise caused by idling trains.
Meanwhile, residents who live near the facility's proposed location between Church Road and Stanwood Street said they still oppose the project.
Bob McEvoy, a member of the Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition, said his group is concerned about noise, diesel emissions and disruptive vibrations from the layover facility.
"We don't want the quality of our air diminished by this facility," McEvoy said on Tuesday. "We would like to enjoy a quality of air that we have right now."
Robert Morrison, another active BWNC member, cited a 2006 study by the Environmental Defense Fund that linked locomotive pollution with premature death, heart attacks, acute bronchitis, and other health issues.
Morrison, who spoke to the NNEPRA board on Monday, also claimed the older, Downeaster trains emit three times the amount of diesel fumes than trains built after 2005.
In response, Quinn said, "to the very best of our knowledge, those trains are compliant with federal requirements by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency."
Quinn acknowledged there will be some noise associated with trains moving in and out of the facility.
"There will be times when trains are moving around. It's not necessarily a daily thing," Quinn said. "It really depends on maintenance cycles and (other variables)."
Quinn also noted, however, that the facility will end the practice of having trains idle outside for up to five hours a day.
McEvoy said Brunswick West also feels snubbed by NNEPRA's process.
When they learned in early 2011 that NNEPRA was looking at the site between Church Road and Stanwood Street, the group began asking questions and NNEPRA responded.
With involvement from other parties – including state Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, and the town – NNEPRA held a series of public input meetings to respond to concerns from residents.
When the meetings concluded in late summer 2011, NNEPRA decided to stick with the Church-Stanwood location.
Quinn acknowledged that NNEPRA selected the site early on, based on its past use as a rail yard and current zoning laws. But she said NNEPRA held the meetings and operated an advisory group to show residents that the rail authority was doing its due diligence.
"I think we've been responsive," Quinn said. "I know people haven't gotten the answers they've wanted, but we really put a lot of time and thought into selecting this facility and we want to do that going forward."
McEvoy, Morrison and other BWNC members have continued to speak against NNEPRA's plans for the layover facility, and Morrison said they will continue to do so moving forward.
"All options are on table," he said.
Quinn said she understands their concerns, but hopes there will be a silver lining for both sides.
"What I am hopeful of is the facility and the operation won't be as severe as they are anticipating. I am optimistic about that," Quinn said. "It's a change from nothing happening there, absolutely. I think our belief going forward is that the impacts aren't going to be as (the opponents have) anticipated."
Consigli Construction Co. of Portland was awarded the design and construction contract for the facility, which is expected to take up to 18 months to complete.
Quinn said three trains will fit inside the building, along with other locomotives.
The cost is being funded by the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program. NNEPRA and the Maine Department of Transportation formalized the funding plan with a signed agreement on Monday.