Depot impact talk to resume
BRUNSWICK — On Monday night, the Brunswick Town Council will revisit a proposal to ask that the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) use state environmental standards in building a train maintenance garage to serve the Amtrak Downeaster’s extension to Brunswick.
Neighbors of the planned 60,000- square- foot garage between Union Street and Church Road have expressed concerns that noise and vibration from overnight train maintenance might impair their quality of life and sleep.
The council voted to table discussion of a similar proposal at its Feb. 6 meeting after more than an hour of back-and-forth public comments from residents on both sides of the issue, which also divided councilors.
“There’s no purpose to write this letter to ask for something we already asked for, which was the advisory group to work toward mitigation,” District 3 Councilor Suzan Wilson said at the Feb. 6 meeting.
District 4 Councilor John Perreault and council chairwoman Joanne King, who are members of the NNEPRA advisory group for the train facility, sponsored the Feb. 6 proposal to draft a letter to NNEPRA board chairman Martin Eisenstein.
On Monday, the council will consider approval of a letter Perreault drafted that would ask NNEPRA to adhere to Maine Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP) noise and vibration standards in construction of the maintenance garage and to bring an Amtrak Downeaster train to Brunswick this winter to allow local monitoring of sound and vibration impacts.
Patricia Quinn, NNEPRA’s executive director, said at that Feb. 6 meeting that the rail authority would not be able to bring a train to Brunswick until later in the year.
The Downeaster is scheduled to begin passenger rail service to Brunswick this fall, and a timeline for the train garage project completed by engineers with the firm Parsons Brinckerhoff in November shows work on the project beginning in April.
“It would be important for this to happen during the winter months and during the hours between 2:30 a.m. and 6 a.m.,” Perreault wrote. “Winter Downeaster activity will have a different impact on surrounding neighbors than other seasons of the year.”
Regarding the noise and vibration standards, Quinn said that NNEPRA would need more time to evaluate the implications of those standards for the project.
“These are very complex regulations and the response that I gave and the response that has the support of our board is that we’re looking into the requirements and regulations and trying to find what is applicable and what that means,” she said.
However, some residents and councilors questioned at the Feb. 6 meeting whether those standards could legally apply to the rail authority at all.
“MDEP standards were not developed with a rail regulation defined because it is outside of the town’s jurisdiction,” Cumberland Street resident Claudia Knox said.
An exemption in Chapter 375 of MDEP regulations — the “ No Adverse Environmental Effect Standard of the Site Location Law” — specifies that “railroad equipment which is subject to federal noise regulations” is exempt from sound regulation by the state’s Board of Environmental Protection.
District 2 Councilor Ben Tucker asked Quinn what the rail authority would do should the town ask that NNEPRA adhere to the standards.
“Without understanding what the implications would be for a rail facility and railroad, I could not answer that question,” Quinn said.
The council will meet in regular session at 7 p.m. Monday in the town council chambers at Brunswick Station, 16 Station Ave.