Sunday, November 17, 2013

“Going to School” on the Amtrak MLF


The other day, we posted a scale-wise comparison of the local Super WalMart to the proposed Amtrak Maintenance and Layover Facility (MLF), currently planned for the Bouchard Drive neighborhood of central, in town Brunswick.  That building is 655 ft long; 96 ft deep, and 37 ft tall.

We thought about this a bit more, and wondered whether there were any other useful examples of this scale hereabouts, and yes, there are.  We chose two:  the glorious symbol of community pride known as Harriet Beecher Stowe School on McKeen Street, and Brunswick High School, our rapidly aging secondary school out in the boonies.

Best we can tell from using the ruler on Google Earth, the ‘span’ of HBS School is about 625 ft from one end to the other.  So it’s not quite as wide as the proposed MLF.  We headed over to the school site to grab some pix.  We positioned ourselves on the sidewalk across the street from the school, roughly 200 ft from the building, or about the distance between the MLF and Bouchard Drive backyard fences.

Once again, even with our wide angle lens set to 18mm, we couldn’t take in the full frontal image of the school.  Here are the photos:



It took two wide angle shots to take in the whole complex.  We also concluded that the building is no taller than about 25 feet, or one third less than the MLF, and considerably less in lower sections.

Then we headed on over to the High School, which we noticed, has a cornerstone that reads 1995.  No wonder it’s looking a bit long in the lockers.  We wonder how long it will take our newly appointed Principal, once she repatriates, to tell us ‘how excited she is to be on board, but sad to report that she found very troubling building conditions within weeks of taking on the job.’  Maybe she’ll find inspiration in our upcoming ‘pay per bag’ discussions and the plight of the municipal dump.

(Note to School Department: BHS is nearing 20 years of age, and with all the abuse it’s had to take, you better start planning its $30 million refurb, or if you really, really care about the children and our schools, its replacement.  Schools designed and built that long ago don’t rise to modern day construction and efficiency standards.  ‘Numbers’ Ellis should find a good architect and start the ball rolling.  {pssst, Rich: tell PDT and Lyndon Keck we’ve almost got the ‘woe is me’ narrative in the can, and we’ll sell it to them for a song.  But please keep this to yourself.})

Once again using Google Earth, we peg the High School at a span of about 425 feet in width.  We pulled out our trusty camera, set the wide angle lens to it’s widest, and snapped away, again from roughly 200 feet away (or a little more):



As you can see, even though BHS is only about two thirds the span of the proposed Amtrak facility, we still couldn’t take it all in with one shot.  We did estimate, however, that the school is roughly as tall as the MLF, by counting brick lines on the building’s exterior.

So if you want to know what the MLF will seem like to those on Bouchard Drive, take a run over to the High School, and picture a facility 230 feet wider than what you see, sitting 200 feet from your back fence.

That’s what it will LOOK like.  But don’t forget to add the hum and whine and vibrations of multiple diesel engines, and that lovely diesel fuel fragrance that permeates every olfactory orifice, and says ‘we’re from the government, and we’re here to help you.’  If you happen to be a BHS booster, think of it as “Dragon’s Breath.”


THEN you might be able to imagine the full sensory delights of NNEPRA’s plan for saving Brunswick from economic ruin.

And you’ll know why we like to think of it as Amtrakolpyse Now.  But don’t let that worry you.  It’s not like they’re gonna put the damn thing down there in the rail gulch by Federal Street, adjacent to the Stowe House and the Barry Mills residence and the rest of the in-town elites.

THAT would be a problem; but Bouchard Drive?  C’mon; get real.  We got bigger problems to deal with around here, like spending a million or so buffing up The McClellan to meet ‘public servant’ standards, including two hundred large on ‘finishes’ and one hundred and forty large on ‘electrical’ (see page 39 here).  What is this, some old farm house being restored?

Oh, and one more thing before we start the fire going and sit down for some football. In a continuing effort to cover their butts and otherwise avoid deeper scrutiny of their plan and process to date, NNEPRA has been propagating the falsehood that unless an MLF is built in Brunswick, and specifically at the Bouchard Drive location, Amtrak service from Portland north must, of necessity, die. 

Given the utter lack of rationale for why it has to be in Brunswick, or even more, why it can’t be at Brunswick Landing or at the Crooker site in east Brunswick, this is nothing but an epic bureaucratic tantrum based on deceit and refusal to budge.

We’ve even heard NNEPRA is now claiming that should they be required to do additional environmental assessment to produce an Environmental Impact Statement, the added cost will doom the overall plan, and once again, Amtrak will disappear from our landscape.

That in and of itself sounds like an open admission that they know what further study will reveal, and they just can’t bring themselves to admit it.  You know, it might just show that ‘you can’t keep your policy and your doctor like we said after all.’

So now they’re trying another ploy; this passage appeared in a recent Channel 6 News Center report:

The next step in Downeaster expansion would be one more round trip from Boston to Brunswick. In order to do that, NNEPRA needs to build a layover facility to house trains in Brunswick because trains are only allowed a certain number of trips per day. That facility, however, has come under harsh opposition from Brunswick residents who live in the neighborhood. NNEPRA is still in the process of reviewing public comments on the proposal.

We don’t know what is at the heart of this limitation, but it sure sounds like another feeble attempt at overcoming truth and reality with fantasy and Brunswick Sausage.  Do the poor itty bitty twains get tired pulling those empty cars back and forth all day?  Or do the widdle motors get overworked?  That seems odd, since they can sit here in town and run the engines for 5 hours or more every day, doing nothing but burning the daylight oil.

What are we talking about here?  Horses that are rode hard and put away wet?  Or modern day marvels of mass transportation that can’t pay their own way?

Or both?  BTW, does anyone know if they’re still serving free Kool-Aid with each Downeaster ticket you buy?

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