Friday, March 28, 2014

Ms. Quinn? Excuse me, Ma’am, we have a question….

Patricia Quinn, Executive Director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, has insisted that a Maintenance and Layover Facility for Downeaster train sets MUST be built in Brunswick if Amtrak service from Portland to our perfect little town is to continue.  By MLF, we mean a large industrial building, approx. 60,000 sq ft, over 600 ft long, and nearly 40 ft tall.

She has further insisted that it MUST be built along Bouchard Drive at ‘Brunswick West,’ as no other location for the MLF is suitable, workable, viable, acceptable, affordable, ordained, or discussable.  So it’s an industrial behemoth in an in town neighborhood, or the Downeaster’s vast but as yet undocumented economic benefit to us all will simply evaporate, like a thief in the night.


She has convinced those with a spiritual connection to the train that this must be taken on faith and faith alone.  Questioning the assertions is heresy; questioning the Environmental Assessment performed by experienced Big Dig engineering firm Parsons Brinkerhoff is grounds for excommunication from the Holy Church of Saint Amtrak and the Downeaster Apostles.  Not to mention having to return your Patron Saint Wayne of TRN Dashboard Bobblehead, and the Saint’s Benevolent Countenance mounted above the living room mantle.

While the vapors coming from the Downeaster fire breathing deity can be punishing enough, such threats can really send true believers swooning.  Here we see one such disciple, and an actor playing Saint Wayne in his younger days, rehearsing for a skit at an upcoming town council meeting. 


Curious cats that we are, we decided to look into things.  We discovered on Saint Wayne’s web site that the Downeaster has been in operation out of Portland since December, 2000.   We wondered what they have in the way of a Maintenance and Layover Facility there, and here is what we found.  Two different google earth shots are shown below, and their use as the Maintenance and Layover Facility in Portland is confirmed in the Environmental Assessment report issued by NNEPRA in September of last year.

Portland MLF area Thomson's Point 2

The MLF is the parallel rail spurs adjacent to the boarding platform at the upper center of the photos.  This MLF is not enclosed, and we assume, has been in use since late 2000/early 2001 when Downeaster service began.  Which, as we see it, makes this a historic railroad use area.  There is significant open real estate around the sidings, with a number of industrial looking buildings.  And no residential neighborhoods that we can detect.

Portland MLF closeup

So here are our questions, Ma’am:

1)  How has the Downeaster managed to survive and ‘prosper’ (as advocates see it) without a fully enclosed, indoor MLF of the sort considered absolutely mandatory for Brunswick service, just 25 miles or so up the road?

2)  Why wasn’t such a ‘mandatory’ indoor facility proposed, planned, and built at the Portland site years ago?  Wouldn’t that make obvious sense, since Portland is effectively a ‘hub’ location for the Downeaster?  Just like Chicago Ohare and DFW Airports for major airlines?

3)  While reading your subsidiary web site run by Train Riders Northeast, we came across this report:

NNEPRA Board Approves Moving Forward with Phase 1 of the Brunswick Layover Facility Project

  • Published on Monday, 25 March 2013 20:15
  • Written by TRN Webmaster

The NNEPRA Board voted to move forward today with Phase 1 of the Brunswick Layover Facility expected to cost $12 million. The board...

  1. Approved a cooperative agreement with MDOT to fund the construction - Commissioner David Bernhardt, a member of the NNEPRA board, has identified federal funds available for this project.
  2. Authorized NNEPRA to proceed with Phase 1 - preliminary engineering work for the development of a $12 million indoor train layover facility in Brunswick, with the award of the design-build contract to Consigli Construction Company of Portland.

It seems apparent this is a go-ahead to Consigli to get underway on the construction project at Brunswick West as of 25 March last year.

The Environmental Assessment was not completed and issued until September 2013, at which time public comments were solicited.  Isn’t this tantamount to ignoring the environmental study process, and compelling Parsons Brinkerhoff to come up with an ex post facto conclusion that the Brunswick West site is the preferred choice, and that environmental consequences of this decision are a non-issue?

While we’re at it, we’d like to add a note to get rid of a yellow sticky we’ve had on our keyboard since we posted about Schadenfreude, Harpswell Variety.


We’d like to hear back from Timothy Halpin, the Harpswell resident who wrote the subject letter, whether he wrote a similar letter indicting his fellow residents when they groused over the potential for an LNG tanker depot on their fair shores.

We imagine he could have said something like this:

Enough already with Save Harpswell’s Waterfront

After years of bellyaching over the LNG depot area, I’ve said before and I’ll say it again: the coastline, the water, the boats, and their sea lanes have been in the same spot for very long.

I’m 35 and they been in the same spot, even when my grandma told stories about riding on boats in her younger days.  My point is that the water and the boats have been in Harpswell longer than most of the Save Harpswell’s Waterfront members have been alive.

Why did you move in to a house so close to the water if you’re a ship hater?

Asking the selectmen and the public for support is wrong.  The selectmen are there for the entire town and the taxpayers of Harpswell, not just your property.

We hope he’ll get back to us on this, just as we hope we wake up tomorrow with a full head of hair, and find ourselves 20 years younger, 50 pounds lighter, and with a winning lottery ticket.

Who knows; maybe in a few years the LNG tanker proposal will come back, and we can schaden some freude in Timothy’s general direction.


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