BRUNSWICK

Whether it’s feasible to implement quiet zones in Brunswick will be known next month.

Gorrill Palmer Consulting Engineers were tasked with studying the viability and cost of creating such zones in seven locations in town, and its report will be reviewed by Brunswick town officials in December.

The town’s last attempt at a quiet zone, in 2012 at Union and Stanwood streets, lasted for only two days after Pan Am Railways — which operates a freight line — objected to the data used to create the designation.

When asked what is different now than in 2012, Town Councilor Sarah Brayman noted that there was too much traffic at the previous proposed zone to qualify for the designation, while now there is likely to be a change in traffic patterns that cross the zones.

Following months of complaints about unreasonable train operation noise during all hours of the night, the town council hosted a workshop on Nov. 13 with various railways officials and agencies to identify measures to reduce disturbance to the public. At the workshop, questions surrounding the sounding of train horns, the establishment of quiet zones and operations at the layover facility dominated the discussion.

It was at that meeting that representatives from Pan Am said the company always resists quiet zones as a safety precaution. The use of horns is regulated by the Federal Railway Administration, which supersedes any town ordinance that would seek to limit noise.

Town councilors were divided on allowing the public to comment on train noise during last Monday’s meeting when councilors discussed the meeting with train officials about how to mitigate community grievances.

Brayman said the public’s participation shows the importance of the issue and its embodiment of a public service quandary, where the train benefits all, but negatively impacts a certain cohort.

After a vote by the council at last week’s meeting, the public was allowed to speak. Brayman said public comment helps the panel to better do their jobs representing the community.

One resident, who waited several hours to speak on the issue at the last council meeting, said he is concerned about an increase in Amtrak activity, when trains start to leave town at 4:30 a.m. and run through to the last train at 1:40 a.m. Currently, the earliest train leaves the station at 7:30 a.m. and the latest one arrives at 10:40 p.m.

Norma Jean Griffiths of the Federal Railway Administration said horn sounding is regulated by the FRA. She added that quiet zones are not silent zones and that engineers must still sound horns as required if there is a safety concern. If there are no horns used, Griffiths said, there is a 66 percent increase in collisions at crossings, but there is no significant difference in collisions in quiet zones as compared to non-quiet zones.

Griffiths said quiet zones also must have additional safety measures; they could include, for example, gates, temporary or permanent closures, and appropriate signage.

The town would be financially responsible for creating quiet zones, and if there was an accident, it is unclear who would be responsible, Griffiths said, as something like that has never been litigated.

The council will meet again on Dec. 4.



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