Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Single-Ended Double-Ended BMLF; questions of public trust and public benefit all in one swell foop

Before we get to the main subject of this post, we decided we want to remind you of a recent exchange with NNEPRA, as we attempted to fulfill our responsibility of keeping you well informed.  The text below appeared in a post dated June 9th of this year, which you can find here:

We think it’s appropriate to remind you as well that the entity that operates the Downeaster was unable to document “Economic and Public Benefits” associated with the service.  Which is a lovely addition to the fact that Brunswick’s Town Council refused to even discuss the subject of local economic benefit when we proposed doing so in 2015.

Dear Mr. Schaeffer:

This is in response to your electronic request to the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority dated­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ May 31, 2017 requesting documents pursuant to Maine’s Freedom of Access Act, 1 M.R.S.A. § 400 et seq.

Any and all materials produced in response to the FY17 Draft Action Plan item to “Identify and Promote Economic and Public Benefits associated with the Downeaster”.

“There are no documents responsive to this request.”

How’s that for an outcome?  The very organization that operates the Downeaster, pursuing the goal for 11 months, could not come up with any constructive benefits to share with us.

Now that you’re in the proper frame of mind to hear more good news about Downeaster operations, lets see how you react to the new information we have for you today.

Side believes that unelected government bureaucrats, working with OPM (other peoples money) can always be counted on to do a far better, more efficient, and economical job than can their counterparts in the private sector.  Especially those who have Carte Blanche for their efforts, and who operate with essential autonomy from the marginal oversight and accountability practices inherent in the main branches of State Government.  </sarcasm>

            Image result for All aboard brunswick

Which, surprise surprise, brings us to the Brunswick Maintenance and Layover Facility (BMLF) constructed under the management of and with funding from the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA.)  All with the attentive admiration of the train ladies of Brunswick, known as AAB.  (We’re wondering how they feel about the new Metro-Breez bus service coming to town.)



The MLF is designed with three identical garage doors at both ends -- East and West; three tracks inside the building; and switched "ladder tracks" at each end to route train sets between the MLF interior and the main-line track.

In theory, this is a "drive through" facility like the modern Fire Station facility east of Cooks Corner.  No backing in or out should be required.  Trains coming up from the south for storage should enter the MLF on the west side.  Trains heading from the MLF to the Brunswick station should exit on the east end and head directly to the station.  Trains heading from the Brunswick station to the MLF should enter on the east side.  Etc,

However, our observers have witnessed train sets regularly backing out of the west end of the MLF via the ladder tracks, and across Church Road (which is blocked during the maneuver) beyond a switch adjacent to the BIW CROF building.  The switch is then thrown, and the train enters the main-line and heads east to the Brunswick Station for the 11:00am southbound departure.  We’ve seen it multiple times ourself.


In other words, in the observed cases, the east end MLF access doors and the east end ladder tracks/switches are not used at all.

This raises concerns that the tracks/switches at the east end of the MLF have design and/or construction flaws that make them unsuitable for maneuvering the Downeaster train sets, and there could be other problems as well.  Design and construction must be well engineered and constructed to avoid damaging train set operating components or exceeding design limits.


This situation merits investigation, since the east end access doors, switches, and tracks could easily have added millions to the project cost.  That they are not part of operation of the facility as originally planned is highly suspicious.  The workaround adds additional closings of the Church Road gates, and additional noise and pollution impacts to adjacent areas.


We expect responsible authorities to come forward with an explanation, and when they do, we’ll publish it here so you’ll know there’s nothing to see here, and you should just move along.

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