The governing board of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority has selected a site in west Brunswick near Bouchard Drive to build a $4 million layover facility for Downeaster passenger trains.

Board members voted 7-0 in favor of the site at a meeting Monday in Portland. Up to three passenger trains will be stored inside a 650-foot-long garage once train service is extended north from Portland.

Inclusion of Bouchard Drive on the list of three potential sites for the facility infuriated neighborhood residents, who fear Downeaster trains will generate noise, vibration and fumes that will harm their quality of life. Many of those residents turned out for a public hearing Thursday in Brunswick.

At that hearing, the rail authority’s consultant, Parsons Brinckerhoff, came out in support of the west Brunswick location because it would cost less to develop and it is closer to the passenger train station in downtown Brunswick. Maine Street Station is located between a Hannaford supermarket and the Bowdoin College campus.

“The board voted to move forward with the west Brunswick site with the understanding that a lot of work still needs to be done,” said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the rail authority. “We feel we can dispel a lot of the fears and misconceptions that are still out there.”

Two other potential layover sites were identified by consultants: one near Brunswick’s industrial park and another in east Brunswick at Cook’s Corner, three miles east of the train station.

Though many residents felt the east Brunswick location would be ideal, the rail authority said it would take as long as 45 minutes to move the trains between Maine Street Station and that site.

Dan Sullivan has lived on Bouchard Drive for 12 years. He said the layover facility in west Brunswick would be located about 60 yards from his home.

“It’s going to be in my backyard. I’m not happy with their decision,” Sullivan said. “Three of my neighbors are putting their homes on the market. It’s not right.”

Sullivan said many of his neighbors felt betrayed by the rail authority, which lured them in with the promise of opportunity for input and several development options.

“They made it sound like we had a choice, when in fact we really never had a choice,” Sullivan said.

Quinn said the rail authority wants to include both residents and the town in its development plans.

Board members authorized the creation of an advisory panel that will include town staff and two Brunswick residents, as well as state transportation and Amtrak officials.

Quinn said the panel will focus on ways to mitigate the impact of the layover facility on nearby homes.

“The project got off to a rocky start,” Quinn said. “We need to establish a level of trust among all these different groups.”

Construction on the facility will start next spring. Passenger rail service between Portland and Brunswick is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2012.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]