May 22, 2018
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Downeaster construction debris may remain scattered along rail corridor until summer

By Will Graff, The Forecaster

FREEPORT, Maine — Although the majority of the track upgrades for Amtrak’s expanded Downeaster passenger service were completed at the end of last summer, the 30-mile rail corridor is still littered with thousands of unused ties, twisted pieces of metal and chunks of broken concrete.

And the mess likely won’t be cleaned up until late spring or summer, said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.

“They are out now picking up ties on the mainline, but they have limited crew in winter time,” Quinn said, adding that Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority won’t know the exact cleanup schedule until it has full crews working again this summer.

Although snow and ice slowed the work, Quinn said, work is happening from Portland north to Freeport and Brunswick.

Although no schedule is set, she said according to the rail expansion contract, the debris must be cleaned up before the end of the year.

The Downeaster began extended service from Portland to Brunswick, with a stop in Freeport, on Nov. 1, 2012.

Town Manager Peter Joseph said the cleanup is expected to reach Freeport by summer.

“I would say my biggest concern is on the aesthetics for the [rail line] neighbors. Obviously there are some neighbors who aren’t too happy about the debris,” Joseph said. “I wouldn’t be too excited if it was abutting against my property.”

At several crossings through Freeport, ties are strewn in the ditches on either side of the train tracks. At the Upper Mast Landing Crossing, the debris includes broken concrete blocks and discarded pieces of metal.

The ties have been there long enough to become visible on images displayed by Google Earth, although many are shaded by trees.

Park Street resident Ken Brown, whose backyard abuts the railroad tracks, said some of the ties were neatly stacked, suggesting that they would be picked up.

But they never were.

“I would have thought that as of the fall finish they would have swept it up as they went. I was afraid it was going to abandoned,” Brown said, adding that he’s been reassured by railroad administrators the ties will be cleaned up. “They haven’t made it to my backyard yet, but I’m OK with it waiting until summer.”

Although the town has no authority to force cleanup, Joseph said he hopes the project will continue on schedule.

“If they’re not meeting requirements we can obviously talk to the people who have enforcement authority,” Joseph said. “I don’t think it will come to that. Hopefully it doesn’t. I think if they’re progressing and it’s just going to take a few months, I think we can live with that.”

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