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. 

The Board of Environmental Projection voted unanimously today to accept the recommendations of their staff by endorsing the Storm Water Management permit granted by the DEP to the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority. By rejecting the appeal of the Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition, the Brunswick Layover Facility has surmounted its last regulartory hurdle.

The coalition, NNEPRA, and Trainriders/Northeast presented their views to the board during a 3 1/2 hour session. 

The coalition, led by Charles Wallace, complained about the process and the science by which the permit was been granted.

NNEPRA's lawyer, Nat Rosenblatt, emphasized that the applicable requirements had been met by the application.

TrainRiders/Northeast's counselor, F. Bruce Sleeper, reminded the board that the Storm Water Management permit was the only action the state could take because the federal government pre-empts all other environmental considerations. Mr. Sleeper raised several objections when the coaltion representative attempted to introduce new arguments, which were not allowed by the BEP's rules.

There were rebuttals from each side, but the board quickly moved on to consideration and then a final vote, which was unanimous in favor of NNEPRA and against the appellants.

Comments from Wayne Davis

BEPPatricia-WayneYesterday's meeting and hearing of the Board of Directors of Maine’s DEP was an excellent example of a well-run state agency. The Board's questions were well thought out, and their familiarity with the hundreds of documents and their endless details revealed a board that had done their homework. Their Chairman kept all participants “on point,” which was a welcome change from many of the public statements made by opponents to the facility's construction and operation.

It was good to hear the location of the facility described as “a rail yard” – something it has been since the beginning of the 19th century - rather than “a residential neighborhood with a rail yard inappropriately placed next to it."

It was also good to see the group of “All Aboard Brunswick” folks from Brunswick and Freeport in the audience. They’ve been extremely supportive.

Hats off to NNEPRA Executive Director Patricia Quinn and her determined staff -- without them, the BLF effort would likely have foundered early on.

Completion of the rail layover facility will result in additional train service to Freeport and Brunswick, as well as eliminating the necessity of 2 daily deadhead runs of Amtrak’s Downeaster between Brunswick and Portland. After the facility is completed and maintenance routines established in summer of 2016, we’ve been told that most folks in that neighborhood will wonder what all the fuss was about.

More from Tom Bell of the Portland Press Herald.
More from the Times Record.

Meanwhile, construction continues...

UPDATE: The Press Herald published a letter from Emily Boochever, a TrainRiders/NE board member and All Aboard Brunswick advocate, disputing claims by passenger rail critics. Here's her perspective.