News Brief

NNEPRA reports May ridership missed FY2017 target by 5%, due to loss of approximately 2,500 riders because of weekend curtailments and heat restrictions. May ridership was only 261 passengers below May of last year. FY2017 YTD ridership is 9% ahead of target. When the June numbers come in, FY2017 promises to be a very successful year. 

 

GerzofskyThe Joint Committee on Transportation in Augusta heard testimony yesterday relating to SP 168 - An Act To Prohibit Excessive Idling of Passenger Trains. It was introduced by Sen. Stan Gerzofsky of Brunswick, who is known as an aggressive opponent of the train and NNEPRA's Executive Director Patricia Quinn. The bill was 'tabled' but could be resuscitated. If passed, it would severely hamper or shut down Amtrak's Downeaster service (as well as Maine Eastern's excursion trains). It reads: 

1 Prolonged passenger train engine operation.      Beginning January 1, 2016, except for engine operation under subsection 2, a railroad company may not operate a passenger train engine while the passenger train is stopped for longer than 30 minutes.

2 Exceptions.     This section does not apply to a passenger train engine that is:

A.  Being repaired or serviced if the operation of the train engine is essential to the proper repair of the train engine; or

B.  Engaged in the delivery or acceptance of merchandise or a passenger for which engine-assisted power is necessary and another means of power is unavailable.

3 Penalty; enforcement.     A railroad company that violates this section commits a civil violation for which a fine of $2,500 must be adjudged. The Attorney General may bring an action seeking injunctive relief to enforce the provisions of this section.

While the bill appeared to be specifically aimed at idling trains in Brunswick (at the station and nearby freight yard), the Downeaster trains actually idle extensively at its current outdoor layover facility in Portland.

A knowledgeable observer at the hearing reported the following:

"Ms. Quinn told the committee that NNEPRA is going to install a generator in Brunswick to reduce emissions. She says that this will take a minimum of 12 weeks for ordering and construction of the generator. Senator Gerzofsky told the committee that he didn't trust the authority to actually do this in a timely manner unless the bill remains outstanding. The committee tabled the bill pending a report from Patricia as to where the generator was going to be located and how things were going on installation. It was suggested by the committee that they might end up holding the bill, but send the authority a letter saying that they want the generator installed ASAP."

This is just the latest attack on NNEPRA by Senator Gerzofksy. His opposition to the Brunswick Layover Facility has significantly delayed its construction; he initiated an investigation into NNEPRA's operations; and now wants to shut down their engines. We expect more of our representatives in Augusta, but in this case we are getting petty politics. Go to our Facebook page to add comments.