2012-02-03 / Front Page

Rail depot advisory team talk postponed

BY DARREN FISHELL Times Record Staff

BRUNSWICK — Citing a need for more time, the group tasked with steering passenger rail to Brunswick postponed a Thursday meeting of an advisory group created to guide plans for a train maintenance facility in West Brunswick.

The delay comes after a coalition of neighbors who live near the site of the planned 60,000- square- foot facility requested at a Jan. 12 meeting that the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority ( NNEPRA) use Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) site location standards to mitigate noise and vibration that would emanate from trains at the building.

Patricia Quinn, NNEPRA’s executive director, said Thursday that the authority delayed the meeting because there was no new information to present to the advisory group since the Jan. 12 meeting.

“They asked questions and we didn’t have all of the answers,” Quinn said. “ Rather than get everyone together, we decided to postpone to have a little more time.”

According to a letter from the Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition, those questions included a request that NNEPRA construct the building to conform with DEP standards and that the rail authority bring a Downeaster train to Brunswick to conduct tests for noise and vibration impacts.

The planned 60,000-squarefoot facility would service those Downeaster trains arriving as part of the rail line’s expansion to Brunswick, scheduled to begin with two round trips by fall of this year.

On Monday, the Brunswick Town Council will consider drafting a letter echoing the neighbors’ requests to use DEP standards, from which NNEPRA could be exempt because federal rules trump state standards on matters related to interstate rail systems.

(Correction, 2:51 p.m.: an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the council would consider a "resolution" on this topic.) 

The draft letter was proposed by council chairwoman Joanne King and District 4 Councilor John Perreault, both of whom represent the town on the NNEPRA advisory board.

Anna Nelson, a spokeswoman for neighborhood coalition, said Thursday that her group discussed the letter with the councilors prior to its proposal for consideration at Monday’s council meeting.

Nelson said that NNEPRA’s adoption of DEP noise and vibration standards would address neighborhood concerns for trains on-site and outside of the planned maintenance facility.

According to a memo from Town Manager Gary Brown to the council, "the subject matter of the proposed letter would include asking that the proposed layover facility (and associated impacts) be built in a manner to meet Maine DEP Site Location Development and Town of Brunswick site location guidelines."

According to a table of MDEP and town noise standards provided by Resource Systems Engineering, the nighttime town noise standards are 15 to 10 decibels lower than the MDEP standards.

Of that request, Quinn said that NNEPRA officials continue to study details of how those standards might affect the project.

Regarding the request to bring a Downeaster train to Brunswick to gauge noise and vibration impacts, Quinn said doing so would not be possible until later in the year, but that noise models provided in current reports for the site were taken using the same Downeaster equipment at an existing layover facility in Portland.

Despite Thursday’s postponement, Quinn said the group is still on track to provide a recommendation for the layover facility to the NNEPRA board by an April 23 meeting.

“We hope to provide (the board) with more information by that point and then decide what the next steps will be,” Quinn said.

NNEPRA currently has a request for quotation out to possible contractors, beginning the competitive bidding process for the project.

Quinn said she expects that the advisory group will stay involved with the project through to the construction process, which, according to a November projection from project consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff, is scheduled to begin in late April.

Nelson said that a rescheduled date for the next meeting of the advisory group has not yet been set but is expected to take place sometime toward the end of February.

dfishell@timesrecord.com

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