BRUNSWICK, Maine — Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, has told the operator of Amtrak’s Downeaster that building a $12 million layover facility for passenger trains in town could harm Brunswick residents.
In a March 25 letter, Gerzofsky said Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, the Portland-based agency that operates the Downeaster, has “abused” residents of a west Brunswick neighborhood near the site of the proposed maintenance building, between Church Road and Stanwood Street.
Gerzofsky’s rebuke came in the wake of the rail authority’s announcement last week that it had secured funds to build the layover facility and could break ground on it this fall.
“This community is being abused because it was built near tracks that were never used — nor ever intended to be used — for this purpose,” Gerzofsky’s letter reads in part. “For this community, the noise and air pollution that comes from trains idling up to five hours a day will result in decreased property values and increased health risks.”
But Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority Executive Director Patricia Quinn told The Times Record the maintenance building would eliminate many of the complaints from trackside abutters. It would contain noise from the engines, screen neighbors from visual and noise pollution and provide a warm environment to maintain and prepare trains between runs, she said.
Quinn said the facility allows trains to be powered down to “standby” mode rather than be left idling outside closer to homes.
In a post on a rail advocacy website, Wayne Davis says Gerzofsky’s claims are erroneous and ridden with falsehoods.
Davis said the section of track where the 55,000-square foot, two-story structure would stand has been used for rail maintenance since the 1860s.
“As recently as the 1970s, the site consisted of numerous rail sidings … and also included a railroad office, a crew quarters and equipment storage buildings,” Davis wrote on the website of Train Riders/Northeast, the civilian organization he leads that has led the effort to bring passenger train service to Freeport and Brunswick.
Davis said the rail authority and Federal Rail Administration considered other sites for the facility, but that the west Brunswick was the most economical and best situated.
Matt Tonello, area manager for Portland-based Consigli Construction Co., said he expects to break ground this fall, after environmental assessments. The Federal Rail Administration also must approve the final plan.
Davis and Gerzofsky did not return numerous calls seeking comment Monday.