The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has postponed a Nov. 13 forum on a proposed Amtrak layover facility in Brunswick but will hold a more formal public hearing on the issue at a later date.

The DEP, acting in response to neighbors’ concerns at the direction of Commissioner Patricia Aho, has stepped up its scrutiny of Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority’s proposal to build a $12 million, 60,000-square-foot maintenance facility in Brunswick. The department sent back for revision a stormwater management plan for the site in August and now has opted for a more formal public hearing on the revised application.

The DEP said a date and location for the public hearing on the stormwater plan have not been set. The forum-style public meeting will be held at the end of the formal hearing.

“Due to the unique circumstances of this case and the substantial public input, I am exercising my discretion to hold a public hearing relating to the stormwater issues on this project,” Aho said in a statement. The DEP announcement stated that a public hearing – versus the less-structured forum – will help department staff better evaluate the project and technical evidence.

The rail authority’s proposal has deeply divided the Brunswick neighborhood.

Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which operates the Amtrak Downeaster service between Boston and Brunswick, wants to build the facility on the site of a former railroad yard located between Pleasant Street and Bouchard Drive. The facility would allow crews to house Amtrak locomotives overnight as well as perform maintenance on the trains, including refueling, lubing, brake shoe replacement and cleaning.

Some neighbors contend the more than 600-foot-long building is ill-suited to a residential neighborhood. They say it will create noise, pollution and vibrations as well as potentially harm the values of their own homes.

Supporters argue the facility will reduce noise and pollution from trains that now idle outside. They also claim the proposed location is the only workable site for a maintenance facility needed to support Amtrak service in the region.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage has raised concerns about site of the facility. And in August, Aho took personal oversight of the project when she directed the rail authority to send any correspondence on the proposal to her office.



CORRECTION: This story was updated at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 7 to clarify that the forum was postponed, not canceled.

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