Monday, October 7, 2013

“Just the facts,” please, on NNEPRA and the Amtrak MLF


You might recognize that look on Joe Friday’s face….it’s his stony look when he thinks he’s being fed a bill of goods.

And he is.  But that’s why you have us to follow up for you.

What follows is a slightly edited version of an item we composed for use elsewhere; we’d like to think it cuts directly to the chase.



The circumstances surrounding the construction of an Amtrak Maintenance and Layover Facility (MLF) adjacent to an established, in town Brunswick residential neighborhood are reaching an irreversible and highly troubling stage. The current plan threatens the domestic tranquility and property values of hundreds of Brunswick families, and precludes larger economic development opportunities that other locations would provide. As such, if unchecked, the plan will be an environmental and socio-economic failure of major proportions.

The Particulars:

  • The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA), created by Maine Statute, exhibits all the operational & accountability shortcomings that became apparent at the Maine State Housing Authority and the Maine Turnpike Authority after the most recent gubernatorial election.

    • Juxtaposed in the midst of municipal, state, and federal governments, NNEPRA is leveraging the confusion and muddled roles to avoid responsible oversight, and effectively skirt around a number of established regulations and processes.

    • They have created a straw-man argument that unless the MLF is constructed as planned, in the in-town neighborhood, Amtrak Downeaster service to Freeport and Brunswick will necessarily die. Anxious locals, convinced that the Downeaster is a miracle of government investment, are therefore circling the wagons to ensure that this plan is not jeopardized by citizens opposed to the proposed location.

  • Notwithstanding the poor business case for Amtrak extension to Brunswick, and the doomsday narrative fabricated by NNEPRA, there is no compelling case and there are no other imperatives to locate the MLF where currently planned.

    • The rationale put forth about 'historic use,' availability, cost, and proximity to the Brunswick passenger depot are soft, easily countered, and completely devoid of singular merit.

    • Conversely, there is a compelling case for not locating the MLF in the Bouchard Drive neighborhood, and it is a socio-economic and environmental impact case of solid virtue.

    • If one accepts that the MLF should be in Brunswick, two other available sites in east Brunswick are far more suitable, and in fact advantageous. Each is clearly superior to the current plan, and most importantly, offers multi-modal economic growth potential, lower overall cost and complexity, and substantially reduced environmental impact. Neither will disrupt the domestic tranquility of established middle class neighborhoods in the heart of town.  Since trains already travel east of Maine Street Station, grade crossings are in place.

  • To summarize, the current MLF siting proposal is not good for the town of Brunswick, the region, or the State of Maine, and there are clear and well-known alternatives that would be beneficial to all. Future growth of any sort is not feasible with the current plan.

Action Needed:

Responsible stewardship of the public trust requires that at the very least, a full FRA Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be required before current plans are implemented, irreversible damage is done, and greater benefits are lost forever. This normally mandatory step has been circumvented by a highly flawed and much less demanding Environmental Assessment (EA) that was used to gain an exemption from the FRA (Federal Railroad Authority.)

This abuse of the normal process is at the very heart of neighborhood opposition, and they have copious hard data to substantiate their case. Regrettably, both NNEPRA and Brunswick town officials have done everything in their power to keep this professionally collected and analyzed evidence from seeing the light of day in an open and public forum.

Additionally, all sources of funding for NNEPRA MLF activity should be immediately frozen, and remain suspended until rigorous and independent evaluation of alternate sites has been completed.


There’s a whole lot of things about and in Brunswick that we just don’t understand.


Why elected officials, and especially the town manager, are so adamantly resisting a full scale evaluation of MLF siting is at the very top of that list.  All the maneuvering, distracting, and downright refusal to openly explore and discuss the details of the current situation clearly suggests that something is very, very wrong here.

We can’t quite put our finger on what it is, but we’re making progress.  And when we reach an inflection point, you’ll be the first to know. 

Until then, remember how much fun it is to watch Brunswick Sausage being made.


And be sure to watch tonight’s council meeting, at which a new variety of local sausage may be introduced.

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