June 25, 2018
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Train facility on track: Amtrak Downeaster operator authorizes deal for $12.2 million layover structure in Brunswick

By JT Leonard, Times Record

BRUNSWICK, Maine — The operator of Amtrak’s Downeaster passenger trains will develop an indoor train layover facility in Brunswick.

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority board authorized the award of a design-build contract for the facility Monday to Consigli Construction Co. of Portland.

According to a news release from the Authority, the project is expected to cost $12.2 million and take up to 18 months to complete. The facility is to be built on rail yard property owned by the Authority between Church Road and Stanwood Street.

Officials say it will alleviate the need for trains to idle outside for hours between runs and could reduce noise pollution, but at least one local Downeaster critic was unimpressed.

Robert Morrison of Bouchard Drive was in Portland for the funding announcement Monday.

Morrison said he and others “tried to get them to understand that this is a grave concern for our health, and that we’re not finished fighting to get this thing placed in another location.”

A statement released by the rail authority Monday described the facility as “large enough to accommodate indoor servicing for three complete Downeaster train sets plus additional locomotives, to include additional noise mitigation and enhanced aesthetic features.”

The layover facility has been long sought by the rail authority, but funds were elusive.

Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority Executive Director Patricia Quinn said Monday the company has secured a funding source for the proposed $12.2 million facility.

The Portland Transit District became an urbanized area after the 2010 U.S. Census, Quinn said, so it now qualifies for a release of federal formula funds.

Some of those funds are based on what area transportation providers — such as buses, trains and airlines — contribute to the local economy. A percentage of those funds are returned to those providers.

In the rail authority’s case, the “new pool of funds became available for operations,” Quinn said, and replaced money already in its operations and air quality mitigation budgets.

That money now will be used to fund construction of the layover facility, which could be a 40,000- to 60,000-square-foot, two-story building.

Consigli submitted the lowest bid when requests for proposals were sent out in June 2011. At the time, all bids exceeded the rail authority’s available funds. Allocation of federal formula funds is enough to get the project back on track.

“We’ll work with Consigli to refine the design,” Quinn said.

Before construction can begin, an environmental assessment must be conducted, and the Federal Rail Administration must approve the design and location.

Municipal boards will have no jurisdiction over the building, which will be erected on trackside land owned by the rail authority.

The building provide a place for service and maintenance between runs and shelter to reduce noise and exhaust — frequent targets of complaint from residents in trackside neighborhoods.

“Neighbors have complained that the trains are kept outside, and this will eliminate that problem,” Quinn said.

“We’re pleased [with the announcement],” she said. “I think it’s definitely in the best interest of the service and the town of Brunswick as a whole. We want to be a valued member of the community; we’re going to be partners and neighbors for many years to come, so we do put a lot of thought and planning into what we do.”

Morrison scoffed when asked if the layover facility eases his concerns.

“Of course not,” he said. “It’s in complete disregard of our concerns about air quality and it does nothing for our noise concerns.”

The Downeaster started service from Brunswick and Freeport to Boston in November 2012, with early ridership exceeding the rail authority’s projections.

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