2012-02-17 / Commentary

Brunswick should demand that NNEPRA heed state standards


At the last Brunswick Town Council meeting, residents spoke against neighbors trying to mitigate the negative impact of a proposed Amtrak layover facility in the Brunswick West neighborhood.

Everyone would like to be done with this issue. But those affected will not have the luxury of forgetting about it: Overnight noise and vibration will disturb their families for years to come.

Indeed, negligence now may ensure that all of Brunswick will be worrying about this facility for a long time.

Affected neighbors have asked for a small thing — that NNEPRA comply with state noise standards. Any regular business would need to adhere to these, which exist to protect the health of taxpayers. But because NNEPRA finds state standards a nuisance, it is exercising its federal preemption and bypassing them.

Now some on the Town Council refuse to protect their own constituents by simply requesting that state standards be maintained.

Something is very wrong here.

NNEPRA, using the unsubstantiated promise that only a layover facility at Brunswick West will permit five to seven Downeaster trips per day, has lured many into supporting the facility even at the expense of their own neighbors.

The building was never a part of the Downeaster expansion plan. Rumor and veiled threats notwithstanding, passenger rail is coming no matter what; NNEPRA's unlikely to return $38 million in government grants.

And those the five to seven trips per day? Not possible until substantial improvements are made to the Portland Brunswick rail corridor, which will cost millions more unbudgeted dollars. NNEPRA hasn’t told you this, though, has it?

Brunswick has been sold a bill of goods. The health of the town doesn’t depend on a last-minute train garage. If it did, Brunswick would have bigger problems than a layover facility could solve.

But, hey, don’t take my word for it. Get the facts before deciding the fate of your neighbors. No one has even conducted an economic impact analysis of the train and its alleged benefits, but NNEPRA is ready to break ground for the layover facility in spring.

Remember, NNEPRA doesn’t pay for itself; we, as taxpayers, pay for it. We deserve the truth.

Brunswick West residents are happy to share what they’ve learned. But don’t be surprised if you get the runaround from NNEPRA. The more questions we ask, the fewer answers we get.

This is the pattern. Neighbors have called for open information, objective science and adherence to regulation and procedure. At every step, they have been met with unsubstantiated claims, questionable engineering and evasion of local process.

NNEPRA finds it cheaper to run roughshod over the rules rather than play by them.

This is not just about a nuisance at Brunswick West. In the end, town residents may decide that they prefer NNEPRA’s style of governance over transparency. But if they do, they will have none to look to but themselves when wondering about the ongoing consequences of getting this wrong.

Doesn’t Brunswick deserve better? A blank check written to NNEPRA will not be free. We need to get this right.

Patrick Rael lives in Brunswick.


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