News Brief

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NNEPRA Board Meeting Concentrates on the "Really Tough Winter"

The extensive tie replacement work done by Pan Am during the first six months of FY2015 (July through December of 2014), took a signifcant toll on Downeaster performance with 143 trains cancelled. 

Then came the blizzards of 2015! In January, Downeaster ridership of 34,931 was down by 3% as compared to last January - 16 trains were cancelled. February to date has seen 36 trains cancelled and those that did complete their roundtrips, experienced signifcant delays. Ridership this year-to-date is down approximately 6,000 passengers.

Ms. Quinn explained to the board, using pictures from the outdoor Portland Layover Facility, why the indoor Brunswick Layover Facility is a necessity. Following the meeting, Patricia sat down with TrainRiders/NE to emphasize the "tough winter" conditions that maintenance and train crews must deal with on a daily basis.

But it's not just the Downeaster that has suffered. Rail systems, freight and passenger, have fallen victim to Mother Nature's fury from New York to Maine.

PanAmSnow

The Portland Press Herald details the damage: http://www.pressherald.com/2015/02/28/freight-slows-as-snow-cold-pummel-trains/ 

 

DEP Sets Time & Location for March 25th Public Hearing

The Maine DEP will hold it's Public Hearing on NNEPRA's Storm Water Runoff Permit application for the Brunswick Layover Facility on Wednesday, March 25th at 9:00 a.m. & 6:00 p.m. at the Brunswick Golf Club, 165 River Road, Brunswick, Maine. While the morning hearing is open to the public, testimony will be restricted to the parties involved (DEP, NNEPRA, TrainRiders/NE and the Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition). No public testimony will be heard at the 9:00 a.m. session.

The evening hearing, at the same location and starting at 6:00 p.m., will be "devoted to taking testimony from the general public." The DEP points out that "testimony will be given under oath and is subject to cross examination by the parties and questions from the presiding officer."

Testimony at both sessions will be limited to issues involving stormwater standards. Comments on other topics will not be permitted.

The full public announcement can be read here.

DEP Visits the Brunswick Layover Facility Site

 

plansDEP Hearing Officer Laura Welles, along with environmental and engineering experts from Augusta, led a site inspection of the proposed Brunswick Layover Facility today in 10-degree weather. 

This inspection was in preparation for the Public Hearing scheduled for March 25th in Brunswick (the site has yet to be identified due to the number of interested parties who are expected to attend). The hearing will take testimony on NNEPRA's request for a Storm Water Runoff Permit - the last regulatory hurdle before construction can begin.

Joint Transportation Committee Briefed by NNEPRA on Special Train

There was a Special Train on the tracks between Brunswick and Portland on Tuesday. NNEPRA hosted members of the Maine Joint Transportation Committee. It was an onboard briefing by NNEPRA Executive Director Patricia Quinn - addressing the Brunswick Layover Facility, the upcoming DEP hearing, passing sidings at Royal Junction and an up-close look at the maintenance problems the train faces when they are left outside during the winter. We invite you to come along via our video.

TrainRiders/NE to Co-host NARP's Annual New England Regional Meeting

narptrnPassenger rail advocates are invited to the NARP Annual New England Meeting to be held on Saturday, April 6th, at the Clarion Hotel, which is right next to the Downeaster stop at the Portland Transportation Center. Registration is at 11:30, the meeting begins at noon and will conclude by 3:30.

TrainRiders/NE is co-hosting the event which will focus on New England rails issues. Among the guest speakers are Patricia Quinn, Executive Director of NNEPRA and Malcolm Kenton, Director of Outreach and Engagement for NARP.

LD 28 Loses Co-sponsor

Good news on the anti-rail bill in the Maine Legislature. L.D. 28, “An Act to Reduce Air Pollution from Trains,” was introduced by Brunswick senator Gerzofsky at the beginning of the new legislative session. If adopted, the bill which attempt to limit diesel locomotive idling will do signficant damage to Maine's growing railroad industry which includes the Downeaster, Pan Am and Maine Eastern.

One of the co-sponsors, newly-elected Senator Sen. Dutremble of York County, told me in a phone call that he has withdrawn his support of the bill after learning more about the issue from rail officials and employees. Public input to our legislators in one way to reduce harmful over-regulation.

President Obama on High Speed Rail in State of the Union

The US Consitution states that the president "shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

obama-hsr1President Obama considered High Speed Rail as one of the 'necessities' of our national infrastructure. 

Keep the Main Line Open

Member John Graback passed along the following article regarding the PANAM plows and their 'pipeline on the rails.' Enjoy!

====

Here are links to a nice digital photo and an HD video of a pair of Pan Am Railway's big Russell plows clearing the tracks north of Portland after this weekend's big storm:

http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=3370916

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzqRQr8tQPQ

NH Executive Council Says 'Yes' to Concord-Boston Passenger Rail Study

nhEleven months ago, the NH Exec. Council said 'No' to using a federal grant that would have examined the feasibility of a Concord to Boston commuter rail link. What a difference an election makes.

The newly elected council voted 4-1 in favor of studying the 78-mile New Hampshire Capitol Corridor project. It is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

The full story from the Concord Monitor.{jcomments on}

Boston Business Organization Passes Resolution Supporting the Downeaster

waynebostonThe Boston Downtown North Association, part of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, passed on Tuesday a TrainRiders/NE resolution supporting the Amtrak Downeaster.

Wayne Davis, Chairman of TrainRiders/NE, presented the resolution to the board for discussion and approval.

Bob O'Brien, Executive Director of the Board, congratulated Wayne on his consistent, deliberate and effective advocacy for passenger rail in New England and the Downeaster service in particular.

This Boston business group joins municipal organizations from Freeport, Portland, Saco, Wells, Dover, Durham and Exeter in support of continued Amtrak/Downeaster funding in the face of political opposition in Washington. Approval by Brunswick and Haverhill organizations are pending.The resolutions are then sent to their respective Washington delegations.{jcomments on}

NNEPRA Board Meeting - February, 2011

dotcom
Patricia Quinn (NNEPRA) - David Bernhardt (MDOT)

NNEPRA welcomed a new member to its board today as strong performance numbers from December and January were presented. David Bernhardt, the new MDOT Commissioner, joined the deliberations occupying the seat of the previous commissioner.

The Downeaster operating statistics were characterized as "robust" by Executive Director Patricia Quinn.

NARP NE Meeting - March 26 in Boston

narplogoReminder: The Annual Meeting for the New England Region, National Association of Railroad Passengers, is being held this year on Saturday, March 26, 2011 at the John Hancock Conference Center in Boston - $35.00 Early Bird Registration if received by March 4th.  Get registration form. See You There!!!

US House Defeats Anti-Amtrak Amendment

From Ross Capon, Exec. Dir. of the National Association of Railroad Passengers:


narplogo
Watch NARP Exec. Dir. Ross Capon take on passenger rail opponent as seen on MSNBC

An amendment to reduce Amtrak's 2011 capital grant by $446 million (Amendment No. 43, offered by Rep. Pete Sessions) failed in a House vote, with 176 "ayes" and 250 "nays."  The nays included 60 Republicans, among them Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), chairman of the House T&I Railroads Subcommittee.

TRN, Downeaster & Haverhill Team Up for Successful Operations Meeting

eagle-tribuneThe bi-monthly Downeaster Operations Meeting doesn't normally make headlines, but yesterday's session in Haverhill resulted in an article in the local paper that reflected the enthusiasm of the Chamber of Commerce for the economic development that the Downeaster can bring to a supportive community. This article, in the Eagle-Tribune, is a classic example of that synergy.

Vice President Biden Cites Downeaster Expansion to B'wick as National Example

bidenThis news from the White House: "Vice President Joe Biden today announced a comprehensive plan that will help the nation reach President Obama’s goal of giving 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years, as outlined in his State of the Union address." The cost of the nationwide plan is estimated at $53 billion over six years.

Of particular interest to us, is the following mention of the Downeaster's expansion to Brunswick:

UNH Survey Says "Yes" to Rail Investment While NH House Committee Says "No"

nhUPDATE #3: New poll by the University of New Hampshire shows strong support statewide for rail investment. The big question: will the legislature listen? The UNH press release can be seen here.

Additional resource: High Speed Rail Monies Allocated to New England in 2010

 


 

UPDATE #2: One NH legislator introduced a bill last month to eliminate the State Transit Authority which has been examing how to bring commuter rail service from Concord, Manchester and Nashua to Boston. After holding a hearing on the proposal, the House Transportation Committee has recommended by an 11-5 party-line vote that the full House approve the bill. The latest from the Nashua Telegraph.

Additional articles:
Bedford Journal

Nashua Telegraph

Snow Storm Mangles Downeaster Schedule

Snow in the winter is to be expected, but five Wednesdays in a row?

downeasterlogoThe Downeaster struggled valiantly to maintain some semblance of service between Portland and Boston. Thanks to the crews, passengers were able to make their destinations but with serious delays.

A morning train from Portland was seen in Saco heading north at 5:50 p.m! Was this the train that was down for a long time because its horn failed and needed replacement? Train #687, which had absorbed #685's passengers, was running 35 minutes late (not bad considering the conditions) as it passed through Saco - frozen doors were a constant challenge to the crews. Not easy to exit through a half-opened door.

From Bob Hall in New Hampshire:

A real tough day for the Downeaster Service.  It is more than just the snow that fell today.  Our equipment is getting tired, real tired of Winter.  I compliment the crews who take it day after day first with equipment that is frozen works sometimes and passengers that are frustrated from long waits and crazy schedules.

Memo from Wayne Davis of TrainRiders/Northeast

{jcomments off}Here we are in the same situation we experienced in 2008 during the "big" storm - tracks cleared of fallen trees and wires - almost all power restored to the line in Maine and Massachusetts with only New Hampshire segments without power.  At that time we contacted Maine's Governor Baldacci to ask that he contact Governor Lynch and the Emergency Management folks in NH about getting electricity to the switches, gates, bells and lights, etc. For whatever reason - service was restored very shortly after that call.

Winter, 2010 Newsletter

Our newsletter is now available for download. It contains additional details on the $35 million federal grant to expand to Freeport & Brunswick. You'll also learn of other projects that NNEPRA is pursuing to increase travel speed and thus reduce travel time and protect the trainsets from winter weather while being maintained in Portland. Go here for the newsletter.

NNEPRA Projects Ridership for Freeport/Brunswick Expansion

An article in SeaCoastOnline features a family that frequently takes the Downeaster between Wells and Boston. 

Halfway into the story, you'll find Patricia Quinn (NNEPRA's Executive Director) discussing ridership expectations once the extension to Freeport & Brunswick is completed.

Go here.

Patricia Quinn Reviews the Stimulus Award to NNEPRA

With the award of a federal $35 million grant to expand Downeaster service to Freeport and Brunswick, new questions have come to the fore: When will the Downeaster service to Freeport and Brunswick begin; what about expansion to Lewiston-Auburn; what about improvements to the Portland-Boston route?

Executive Director of NNEPRA, Patricia Quinn, provides an overview as to how the award was granted and what lies ahead. Go here.

House & Senate Approve $787.1 Billion Stimulus Bill

The stimulus bill, which now heads to the White House for the president's signature, has good news for Amtrak and passenger rail supporters:

From the Washington Post:
“In a victory for rail advocates, the bill includes $9.3 billion to develop high-speed trains and to improve Amtrak.”