NNEPRA DIRECTOR Patricia Quinn addresses the Brunswick Town Council on plans for the train shed in west Brunswick on Monday.

NNEPRA DIRECTOR Patricia Quinn addresses the Brunswick Town Council on plans for the train shed in west Brunswick on Monday.

BRUNSWICK

Under the gun of the Maine Legislature, the authority overseeing the Downeaster rail service will install a power supply system in Brunswick to stop its passenger trains from idling in town in warm weather.

Patricia Quinn, director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, told the Brunswick Town Council on Monday that NNEPRA’s board had earlier green-lit plans for a power system in town.

SEN. STAN GERZOFSKY

SEN. STAN GERZOFSKY

Brunswick Town Councilor John Perreault said he will be pushing for a formal arrangement to install a system that would allow an engine to plug into a power supply and cease idling when temperatures are above 45 degrees.

The town council will formally take up the matter on May 4.

NNEPRA rejected installing such a power system last year, believing that construction of a 52,000-square-foot train shed near Stanwood Street and Church Road would be well underway by now, according to Quinn.

Plans for that facility are hung up on a storm water application before the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Residents in and near downtown Brunswick have been subject to noise, vibration and pollution caused by idling diesel engines, said Town Councilor Jane Millett.

“This has been going on for years. I thought it was going to be resolved last summer and nothing happened,” Millett told Quinn before a packed crowd in the council chambers.

Once a vendor is signed, installation of a power system could take between eight and 12 weeks, said Quinn.

Still pending is a bill in the state Legislature that would ban any passenger train in Maine from idling longer than 30 minutes.

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Stan Gerzof- sky, D-Brunswick, said he’ll keep up his support of the bill until the town and NNEPRA agree on a timeframe and a location of where the power supplies will be.

“They’re not going to kill that bill until I find out those things,” said Gerzofsky in an interview, referring to the Legislature’s transportation committee. “I’m tough when I have to be.”

Quinn had told the council that the power supply would be located near Church Road.

Gerzofsky said he was motivated to sponsor the bill after repeated complaints from constituents that Downeaster trains have been idling up to five hours a day in town since service came to town in 2012.

“No community in the state of Maine should have to go through what we’ve been going through,” said Gerzofsky, who successfully pushed for an audit of NNEPRA’s board by the state’s Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability.

In an interview, Robert Morrison of the Brunswick West Neighborhood Association that opposes the proposed train shed, said the power supply ought to be located at Brunswick’s train station near Hannaford and Town Hall. Such an arrangement, he said, would be a better, permanent alternative to a multimillion dollar layover facility.

Morrison appeared nonplussed by Quinn’s remarks regarding the train shed, which Quinn sees as the permanent solution to the idling problem.

“Nothing has changed,” said Morrison, reiterating concerns over the affect he said the shed would have on his neighborhood.

Quinn said she was attempting to “reset” the discussion over the shed, adding: “There’s been some misunderstanding as to what the facility is and what it isn’t.”

The facility won’t be used for “heavy maintenance,” according to Quinn, but rather for “turnaround servicing.”

Inside, trains will undergo system testing and inspections, cleaning, and refueling by a vendor. Spare coaches will be stored outside the shed.

Quinn noted that there will “periodically” be switching of cars during day and night hours.

The building is soundproofed greater than required by federal regulations and will be screened on the side facing Church Road, she said.

Once inside, Quinn said engines will idle for 20 minutes during testing, after which they will switch off. Trains will also idle inside the facility for 15 minutes before the start of each run.

“The train will not run continuously inside the building,” said Quinn.

Amtrak will oversee all operations at the facility, Quinn said, which is not likely to be used by other rail services, such as the MBTA.

The facility would also eliminate most of the socalled deadhead runs and increase the number of round-trips to Brunswick and Freeport to three. “Without any additional investment, it will result in more train service from Brunswick to Boston,” said Quinn.

Ridership on the Downeaster has grown by more than 100 percent since 2004, said Quinn. Service to Brunswick has been very successful, although last year was the “worst year in the history of the Downeaster” in terms of service, owing to a brutal winter and mechanical issues.

Gerzofsky’s bill

STILL PENDING is a bill in the state Legislature that would ban any passenger train in Maine from idling longer than 30 minutes.

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, DBrunswick, said he’ll keep up his support of the bill until Brunswick and NNEPRA agree on a timeframe and a location of where the power supplies will be.

“They’re not going to kill that bill until I find out those things,” said Gerzofsky, referring to the Legislature’s transportation committee. “I’m tough when I have to be.”


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