News Brief

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Full Service Resumes August 1st

downeasterlogoA new beginning! Full service resumes on August 1st, all trains, all stations!

This passenger rail nightmare is now comiing to end. 

Lessons have been learned and will need to be applied so that regular maintenance will keep the Downeaster on track in the future.

Legislative Alert!

A special request to all members and friends of TrainRiders/Northeast - Immediate action requested!

capitol-domeAs you read this notice, Congress is contemplating the future of not only Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and what is left of the national rail system (long distance trains), but our most popular Downeaster service is also in the line of fire.

Press articles this past month have already commented on the U.S.House of Representatives vote on the National Transportation Bill - which includes highways as well as train service.  Unfortunately, the train portion of the House bill seeks to separate the Northeast Corridor service from the rest of the National System rather than continuing to share revenue throughout the entire system.  In addition, there are other sections of the house bill that would increase the cost of state-supported services and ultimately eliminate continued federal support for operations. The House bill also leads to the elimination of food service on all Amtrak trains.

NNEPRA Board Approves BLF Construction Contract

NNEPRA BM 6-15

At 1:10 p.m. today the NNEPRA Board aproved the construction contract for the Brunswick Layover Facility. Cost not to exceed $13,717,459.

At 2:09 p.m. the opposition petitioned the DEP to stay the storm water permit pending their appeal. The appeal would be heard by the Board of the DEP.

The Board adopted various resolutions giving authority to Executive Director Patricia Quinn to negotiate any an all details with Consigli Construction of Portland - the Board Chairman or Vice Chairman would have final approval. 

NNEPRA Board Renames and Broadens Advisory Board Mission

Following last week's refusal of the Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition leaders to engage in constructive discussion on agenda items and their disrespectful antics as detailed in our previous article, Executive Director Patricia Quinn concluded that the relationship with Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition had become unproductive and was a waste of NNEPRA staff time. She then asked the board to provide guidance as to how best to continue its work with the Brunswick community.

Board members noted that it was important to continue a dialogue with Brunswick citizens, but as NNEPRA moves on to the construction phase, the base of the advisory group needs to be to be broadened and to that end, the following motion was proposed by chairman Martin Eisenstein and unanimously approved.

NNEPRA board of directors redefines the mission of the Brunswick Layover Building Advisory Group and renames the group as follows:

The Brunswick Layover Building Advisory Group is renamed the Brunswick Layover Advisory Group and its mission is as follows:

The purpose is to facilitate information exchanges between NNEPRA and the Brunswick community.

The constitution of the group with be decided by the chair of the board after input from other board members and the Brunswick community at large.

Board members went on to explain that they are moving from a planning stage to a construction phase, therefore, the issues are different than before and that different levels of public participation are needed. 

Robert Morrison of the Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition said his group would have to decide whether or not they would continue in the new group. Chairman Eisenstein responded that the committee was not set up to determine the location of the facility. "Members of your group will be invited to participate in the broadened advisory group, with the understanding that we are not debating the location of the site," he concluded.

Execcutive Director Patricia Quinn announced that NNEPRA would shortly reapply for the storm run off permit that was invalidated by a Superior Court judge.

What Really Happend When the Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition Met with NNEPRA Last Week

The Layover Advisory Board, created by NNEPRA to work with the opponents of the Brunswick Layover Facility, met last week to discuss the color and lighting of the proposed Downeaster facility. The local paper somehow failed to provide the disturbing specifics of the NIMBY's opposition to the agenda. Here is a letter, sent to the Town Council, by one of the pro-layover West Brunswick residents detailing the rude and disturbing antics employed by the opposition.

July 26, 2014

To:  Brunswick Town Councilor Benet Pols

From:  Jeff Reynolds 

RE:  Dysfunction of the Layover Advisory Committee 

Dear Councilor Pols, 

On July 24, 2014, the Layover Advisory Committee met at Council chambers in Brunswick.  I attended—and will never forget what I, along with others, witnessed.

Among the members of the Committee are three citizens who live near the site of the soon-to-be built Downeaster layover and maintenance facility.  These citizens also happen to belong to and occupy leadership roles in the Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition (BWNC).  Their names:  Dan Sullivan, Chris Casey, Robert Morrison. 

In decades of attending and participating in meetings of various sorts I have never seen behavior such as that exhibited by the aforementioned citizens.  They were uniformly rude, insinuating and insulting, insistent on having it their way or no way or at all.  It was nothing short of outrageous.[1]

One brief example will suffice.  An engineer for the firm that will build the layover facility gave a PowerPoint presentation on the lighting plan for the site and structure.  Images were displayed on the west wall of the Council chamber.  This was information of vital import to me as a resident of the neighborhood near the site, and it had been deemed important enough to the BWNC to merit frequent mention in public forums, letters, their website, and more.

Throughout the presentation all three BWNC members faced the east wall, their backs to the speaking podium.  Dan Sullivan kept his eyes shut tightly the entire time.  Chris Casey and Robert Morrison carried on a conversation so loudly that those of us in the audience had difficulty hearing what the consultant was saying.  When the Committee chair asked if the citizen members had any questions or comments pertaining to the lighting plan, Robert Morrison ignored the invitation and instead read a prepared two-page BWNC “position paper” that had nothing, nothing whatsoever to do with lighting or any other agenda item.

Amplify this kind of juvenile meanness for the duration of the meeting and you get an inkling of what occurred.  The worst part, however, and the part I want you to keep in mind as you consider future action, occurred when the ostensive purpose of the meeting—to select a color for the building—came up.

The BWNC members refused to participate, and this after they, like me, had been sent ahead of time by mail, professional, color illustrations of various color schemes and instructions on how to make preferences known through an on-line service.  I participated on-line.  As a neighborhood resident I looked forward to engaging further in the selection process.

Here’s my point.  By refusing to participate in this activity, and through their relentlessly “obstructionary” behavior throughout the meeting, the three members of the BWNC have abrogated their right to represent the residents who live near the Church-Stanwood site.  All three must be released from their places on the Committee and replacements found who will participate constructively.

Furthermore, since this facility is of great interest across Brunswick, new appointees ought to be welcomed from all parts of the area, up to and including Freeport.

Lastly, members of all Town committees represent Brunswick.  They are our public face.  In light of their reprehensible behavior at the July 24 meeting, all three citizen members of the Layover Advisory Committee ought to apologize formally, in public, to the other members of that Committee and to Brunswick as a whole. 

Sincerely,

Jeff Reynolds

36 Redwood Lane

Brunswick, ME  04011  

Cc:  Town Councilor John Perreault

     Town Councilor John Richardson

     Ms. Patricia Quinn

[1]. . . and in contrast, the other Committee members were helpful, courteous, and patient beyond the capacities of most of us. 

------

Here is the orgininal Forecaster article which failed to mentioned the coalition's disruptive tactics. 

 



 

A Small Group of Augusta Politicians Question Plans to Build the Layover Facility in Brunwick

On the heels of a finding by the Federal Railroad Administration that the proposed Brunswick Layover Facility would have no significant environmental impact on the West Brunswick neighborhood and after a Maine judge invalidated a rain runoff permit, forces aligned against the construction have taken a new approach by lining up several Augusta legislators, inclulding an Amtrak conductor, to propose that the layover facility now be constructed at PanAm's Rigby Yard in South Portland. Everybody has an opinion about where best to site the much-needed structure as there have been more than a half dozen suggestions, from the Governor to politicians pushing their favorite service plans to NIMBYs (Not In My Backyard [more properly called NIMFY - Not In My Freightyard]).

NNEPRA, under Executive Director Patricia Quinn, has examined all with the help of outside consultants. The freight yard in West Brunswick was best for the efficient operation of the service. Ms. Quinn stands behind the decision to move forward with the selected site and has asked to meet with the aforementioned legislators to explain how the decision was reached and what the consequences are likely to be if opposition further delays the facility.

Here are two recent articles:

https://bangordailynews.com/2014/07/10/business/lawmakers-question-plan-to-build-downeaster-layover-facility-in-brunswick-suggest-south-portland/

http://www.mainebiz.biz/article/20140714/NEWS0101/140719982

UPDATE

A recent Investor's Business Daily editorial has sections which definitely apply to the current Brunswick Layover Facility controversy. Read it and weep:

"In the mid-1930s, workers spent a mere 400 days building the Empire State Building. It took more than 3,600 days to wade through the red tape and politics and complete the replacement for the Twin Towers.

The country built the 47,000-mile Interstate Highway System in 35 years. But 34 years after Maryland decided to build a 19-mile Intercounty Connector, that stretch of highway is still under construction.

The problem is that a massive army of NIMBY and "public interest" groups, environmentalists and regulators has grown up in recent decades — a force with the singular mission of saying "no" to anything and everything anyone tries to do.

From an engineering perspective, anyone could build a Hoover Dam today — or an oil pipeline for that matter — but who'd be dumb enough to propose such a thing, knowing the ferocious public attacks, exhaustive "environmental reviews" and endless lawsuits they'd face?

Environmentalists these days even block "clean energy" windmill farms and solar power plants because of the damage they'll allegedly cause to local ecosystems."

The full editorial is below, but the above is enough to understand the bind America is in, from Brunswick to Maryland.The full editorial: http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/071814-709541-apollo-45-moon-landing-anniversary-and-cant-do-spirit-in-america.htm#ixzz387gfN0NS

Maine Judge Says 'No' to NNEPRA's Storm Drainage Plan for the Brunswick Layover Facility

Just last month, the FRA gave the go-ahead for the construction of the Downeaster's Brunswick Layover Facility. However, this week a Maine Superior Court judge invalidated NNEPRA's storm drainage plan. The judge found that all the 'abutters' were not properly notified. The dispute revolves around the definition of 'abutters.' NNEPRA sources report that it was following the Maine DEP maps and guidelines regarding just who was an abutter. 

While some say a wider group of newly defined 'abutters' will be notified and a public hearing scheduled. others wonder if the federal government pre-empts such local legal maneuvers. 

More details in The Forecaster.

NNEPRA July 22nd Board Meeting - Downeaster Surpasses Previous Year's Record

Executive Director Patricia Quinn of NNEPRA released the good news: June Performance Statistics propelled the Downeaster to record ridership and revenue numbers for FY 2013.

In June of 2013, 47,566 riders took the Downeaster while in June of 2012, the number reported by Amtrak was 46,605. June, 2013 revenue was $37,755 ahead of last June. FY 2013 ridership and revenue growth again were both plus items in NNEPRA's spreadsheet. An End-of-the-Fiscal-Year report will be issued once the data of this "very successful year" is fully analyzed.

TRN's Wayne Davis Comments on Continued Downeaster Layover Facility Controversy

The Portland Press Herald reported Friday that Senator Angus King (I-ME), who lives in Brunswick, recently sent a letter to FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo requesting that the federal agency “conduct a full, fair and transparent” environmental assessment of the proposed Downeaster layover facility in West Brunswick.

NNEPRA Board Meeting - July 1st - Downeaster Moves Toward Record Fiscal Year

Performance Report:

may13aperformExecutive Director Patricia Quinn released the May statistics which showed continued growth with every expectation that the Downeaster service would set a new passenger/revenue record for fiscal year 2013.  May, 2013 ridership exceeded the previous year by 6.92%, revenue increased over that same period by 4.26%.

On Time Performance was 80.50% and overall Customer Satisfaction Index was 94.

Expansion Stations:

May, 2013 ridership on the Boston-Brunswick route was 1,909, and Freeport's ridership was 838. Together (2,747), they exceeded Boston-Durham (2,582) and Boston-Haverhill (2,564) and approached the numbers for Boston-Saco (2,885). Ms. Quinn was very pleased with these initial May numbers for the expansion towns.

Brunswick Decision Likely in August and NNEPRA Celebrates 509,986 - What a Number!!!

boardjuly11

At this month's NNEPRA Board Meeting, there was extensive discussion between the board and members of the Brunswick Neighborhood Group. The group remains opposed on environmental grounds (emissions, noise, light and possible impact on property values) to locating the Downeaster Maintenance Facility between Church and Stanwood Streets. Board Chairman Martin Eisenstein announced that NNEPRA would hold a public meeting in Brunswick on August 18th to hear and discuss the final recommendation of the consulting firm that has been evaluating the three remaining sites. The board will then vote on the recommendation at its regularly scheduled meeting on August 22nd.

UPDATE: Brunswick Layover Sites Down to Three

lettersUPDATE:

Two recent letters in The Times Record encapsulate the dispute regarding the location of the Downeaster Maintenance Facility in Brunswick. Will MDOT and NNEPRA decide in favor or the Church/Standwood site or will an alternative be selected? A decision is on the horizon.

The letters:

For the Church/Standwood site

For an alternative site

=======

EARLIER:

Some 100 Brunswick residents attended a public forum on July 14th to continue discussions about the location of the Downeaster maintenance facility. MDOT & NNEPRA officials presented a list of three locations for the site, after eliminating two other locations as unsuitable. Many of those in attendance remain opposed to the original selection, between Church and Stanwood Streets, due to environmental and noise issues. That initial location is one of the three remaining options.

The 40,000 square foot shed will house the Downeaster trainsets overnight where light maintenance will be perrformed.

The Portland Press Herald has a full report. 

UPDATE: House Passes Bill That Rescinds $20.8 Million Grant to Improve MBTA/Downeaster Route in MA

The US House of Representatives passed on Friday afternoon HR 2354, the FY2012 Energy & Water Development Appropriations Bill.  This Bill contained language that rescinded unobligated balances of funding awarded by the High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program. It was passed by a vote of 219 to 196.  The legislation now moves to the Senate. At risk is NNEPRA's grant of $20,822,341 for Downeaster track improvements along the MBTA line in Massachusetts. Some 600 jobs are at risk.

UPDATE - Downeaster Resumes Schedule After Firey N. Berwick Collision at Grade Crossing

NNEPRA announced Tuesday morning that the Downeaster would resume full service following yesterday's collision in North Berwick with a tractor-trailer that claimed the life of the truck driver, injured several passengers and destroyed an Amtrak engine and severely damaged the lead coach.

Train #681 was carrying 112 passengers on its run from Boston to Portland. The injured, including two crew members, were transported to Goodall Hospital in Sanford, treated and released.

The Portland Press Herald has a comprehensive report:

http://www.pressherald.com/news/Report-Train-collides-with-truck-in-N-Berwick.html{jcomments on}

NARP President Visits Maine on the Downeaster

narpRoss Capon, President and CEO of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) came to Maine for a brief visit this month accompanied by his three sons, Tom, Phillip and William.  TNE Chairman, NARP Delegate and former long-time Vice-President, joined the Capons at Saco to ride with them  to Portland.

Unfortunately, they were two years too early to enjoy Amtrak Downeaster expanded service direct to Brunswick to connect with the existing Maine Eastern Railroad's luxury service to Wiscasset - the jumping off place for visiting their relatives on Westport Island.  They rented a car in Portland.

Nevertheless, escaping from the 100+ degree temperatures in Washington to enjoy  Maine's cooling sea breezes at Westport made the trip worthwhile.

Downeaster Celebrates Record Year!

downeasterlogoPatricia Quinn, Executive Director of NNEPRA, announed to the monthly board meeting that the Downeaster had a record-breaking year.

She listed the performance highlights for fiscal year 2010 noting that the Downeaster transported 474,058 passengers (1% over FY 2009) a total of 37.6 million passenger miles and generated $6.66 million in ticket revenue."

Other FY 2010 items:

  • Average daily ridership: 1,299
  • Average passenger fare: $14.05
  • Average miles per passsenger: 80
  • Total cost recovery: 52%
  • Rider profile:
    45% travelled between Maine stations and Boston generating 58% of total revenue.
    36% travelled between NH stations and Boston generating 28% of total revenue.
    34% of total riders travelled using multi-ride passes, generating 17% of total revenue.

FRA Releases $35 Million for Downeaster Expansion to Freeport & Brunswick

TRAINRIDERS NORTHEAST APPLAUDS GRANT AGREEMENT TO EXPAND
DOWNEASTER SERVICE NORTH FROM PORTLAND TO BRUNSWICK

Trainriders Northeast, a grass-roots citizens organization formed in 1989 to educate the public and public officials as to the benefits of passenger rail service in the Northeast, applauds the finalization of a grant agreement between Maine’s Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) which will provide $35 million in federal funds to expand the Downeaster passenger rail service north from Portland, through Freeport to Brunswick.

Today, it was announced that this agreement would allow work on the track between these points to begin as soon as the end of this week, with construction to be completed, and the extended service to be operating before the end of 2012.

NNEPRA Board Meeting - June, 2010

I was unable to attend the June 28th NNEPRA board meeting due to the Host Appreciation Luncheon which took place at the same time. The following is from the NNEPRA May statistics sheet.

  1. Ridership was up 9% from May of last year (38,879 vs. 35,445)
  2. Revenue increase 7% from May of last year ($552,507 vs $512,410)
  3. On Time Performance was only 60.65% in May, 2010. Train #699 had 100% OTP and #680 had 92-95% OTP. {jcomments on}

A Maine Community Chorus Journeys Through Russia by Train

"Alleluia Junction: A Community Choir Journeys From Maine to Russia"
Documentary Film - Free Public Screening at the Strand Theatre in Rockland - Saturday, July 3 at 1:30 p.m.

medocu

A midcoast community choir, comprised of the Down East Singers and the Bowdoin Chorus, journeys the length of Siberia to the Russian Far East, including the Trans-Siberian Railway, in time to celebrate the 4th of July with warm hosts and a new understanding of what it means to be an American and a citizen of the world.