Sunday, April 6, 2014

Amendment to Side’s Saturday post on Amtrak MLF Site Location

(Note:  This post has been updated at 11:45 am Monday morning April 7th.)

Before we get to the main point of this ‘amuse bouche’ post, we can’t help but think of this beloved quote.  It seems ever so appropriate to tomorrow night’s Brunswick Town Council Meeting:

I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or if they try, they will shortly be out of office.
             - Milton Friedman

Alright; back to our “amendment:” do you remember this visual in Saturday’s post?


Good; that post had this rather cumbersome title:

Amtrak MLF Site Location: Lessons in selective memory and selective compliance with…..oh well, whatever sounds good at the moment you need it to sound good.

and you can read it here if you didn’t see it the first time:

Said post included passages excerpted from:

  • Brunswick Layover Environmental Assessment (EA) September 2013:

The passages we need to update you on are these:

June 23, 2011 – NNEPRA Hosted Public Meeting, Brunswick, Maine

NNEPRA provided an overview of the layover facility project, and introduced the consultant team from Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB). The PB project manager discussed the consultant’s scope of work and schedule for the project. Mention was made of NNEPRA’s intention to “stand down” from proceeding with advanced design of the layover facility, and instead provide an opportunity to consider alternative sites and review the basic facility configuration and operating needs with the public and elected officials at a series of meetings. Consultant staff called attention to the fact that because presently there was no federal involvement with the layover facility, a formal environmental assessment under NEPA would not be required. However, the Consultant’s scope of work included preparation of an Environmental Report, which would be performed in a manner akin to a federal environmental document.

The overall operating needs and functions of the layover facility were explained by the consultant team and by the Amtrak General Superintendent, emphasis being made as to the overnight storage and servicing function of the facility, with traditional maintenance, inspection and repair work being performed by Amtrak at established remote locations such as Boston. It was explained at the meeting that PB would be performing an analysis of potential site locations during the next ten weeks, and Brunswick residents were provided an opportunity to ask questions and present their thoughts and opinions about the facility. Many questions addressed the process and schedule, which were responded to by staff with an indication of alternatives analysis lasting through August 2011, with site recommendation and a transition to design occurring in September 2011. Meeting participants were encouraged to contact NNEPRA and PB staff with suggestions for potential sites. A follow-up public meeting was scheduled for July 14, 2011.

July 14, 2011 – Public Meeting, Brunswick, Maine

The PB Team provided an overview of six potential sites for a layover facility within a four mile vicinity of the Brunswick Station. During PB’s presentation, consultant staff outlined the potential footprint of the facility and the land requirements. By virtue of being a railroad yard with its required track work geometry, the layover facility has a long, narrow rectangular configuration and needs to be adjacent to the railroad main line. PB staff noted that they had investigated several potential sites including those identified by real estate representatives of the present owners.
Based on further analysis, four sites were eliminated due to unsuitable configuration of the available/offered property and the resultant need for additional property takings and relocations. It was explained that the three sites remaining after this initial screening; East Brunswick, Brunswick West and the Brunswick Industrial Park; would be evaluated in greater detail and that PB would provide their recommendations to the NNEPRA Board and the public for review and comment.

Public comments and questions centered on the specifics of Amtrak maintenance facility operations and on how non-quantitative issues, such as quality of life, would be addressed in the recommendation process and on the manner in which NNEPRA would act on the recommendations. The materials presented at this meeting were posted on the NNEPRA website for public review.

Since the above citations were contained in the EA, funded by NNEPRA via their consultant Parsons Brinkerhoff, it was reasonable to presume they happened at NNEPRA’s behest, ‘in the public interest.’  Especially since the citations appeared under the heading “Agency and Public Involvement.”  Which included this introductory language:

Correspondence with agencies regarding technical aspects of the proposed project are detailed in relevant sections of this document and are compiled in Appendix A.
The project proponent, NNEPRA, has coordinated with the public and federal, state and local agencies throughout the development of the proposed project. This included NNEPRA Board meetings and three public meetings held in Brunswick to describe the proposals and solicit public feedback. The public meetings were well attended and publicized in the local media (newspaper, cable television). In addition, an advisory group comprised of officials from the Town of Brunswick, the Brunswick Town Council, the MaineDOT, Amtrak, and members of the Brunswick community was convened in December 2011 and has met on three occasions.

A summary of public and agency meetings is presented below.

(emphasis ours)

We presumed the same thing, but we stand corrected.  And we are here to amend yesterday’s post so that your understanding is corrected as well.

Authoritative sources have provided this update:  the June 23, 2011 and July 14, 2011 meetings were “Senatorial Information Meetings” instigated and coordinated by State Senator Stan Gerzofsky.  The meetings were arranged through Mr. Manager Gary Brown and then Council Chair Joanne King to secure use of council chambers.  The meetings were advertised via a story in the Times Record, and notice of the meetings was posted on the town web site and the Cable 3 Community Access Municipal Calendar. 

The Senator invited NNEPRA to attend and participate.  These were not NNEPRA initiated or sponsored meetings, and they were not “hosted” by NNEPRA.  Video of the meetings was recorded and archived.

Late Addition:  Wouldn’t you just know it?  We’ve learned that one more item needs to be added to the list – this one from page 45 of the EA document, under “Agency and Public Involvement.”

December 2, 2011 – Brunswick Building Advisory Group Meeting

At the first Building Advisory Group meeting, PB’s noise engineer Erich Thalheimer provided an in-depth presentation of PB’s noise and vibration analysis and its findings. A brief overview of the layover facility site design and the building’s functions and systems was also provided. Ken Macumber of PB presented design plans for the facility, which were still in development. The group was advised that preparation of the design-build specifications was well underway, with a package of materials being planned for distribution to the group for review in late December.

This group was called the Mitigation Advisory Group by most, but that doesn’t play well in a NNEPRA public document.  Efforts were made to limit participation by the citizenry, but strong objection was voiced by a local state senator, resulting in the addition of another councilor, besides the Council Chair at the time (CoJo), along with three members of the public from the most affected neighborhoods.

Our sources tell us this meeting was closed to the public.  The NNEPRA ED instructed attendees to limit comments to building footprint only and operations inside the building.  No other concerns would be heard, including total project impact; exterior operations; and air pollution controls.

Given these details, couching this meeting as a willing nod to public involvement is disingenuous at best.


We have further recent news to report.  Herewith that update:

A meeting was held by NNEPRA in Portland on March 19th to discuss their Service Development Plan, which has been in preparation since 2011, and will supposedly be completed by June of this year.  NNEPRA ED Patricia Quinn responded to suggestions for Downeaster service improvement that an additional train set might be needed to expand service.

The proposed MLF at the Brunswick West site cannot be expanded to handle another train set.  Hence the added train set could be required to layover outside the enclosed facility while waiting for an open bay, leading to many hours of engine idling on tracks near the building.

Large capital improvement projects for transportation systems normally are designed to satisfy longer range developmental plans (15-30 years.)  The proposed MLF is designed to accommodate current service and equipment levels, and cannot provide for additional train sets.

Town and state officials need to take this possibility into account as it relates to pursuing a full Environmental Impact Statement process conducted by the Federal Railroad Authority.  There are simply too many uncertainties and unanswered questions to proceed on the basis of the Environmental Assessment alone.

No matter how much the mercenaries of TrainRiders Northeast and the volunteers at the Station Departure Center object.  Or how many make euphoric claims such as:

I believe the comeback of rail is essential to our country's economy and the wellbeing of its citizens.

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