TRN Chairman Wayne Davis Comments on Continuing Brunswick Layover Facility Controversy - PPH Questions LePage Administration Motives - DEP Pledges 'By the Book' Review

waynespirotitleTRN Chairman Wayne Davis has spoken out on the continuing dispute over the Brunswick Layover Facility. In a Press Herald article, he concludes that Gov. LePage is "tinkering with the most successful train in the nation.” There's more from Wayne, NNEPRA's Patricia Quinn, the DEP commissioner, the BWNC and other interested parties. 

The Press Herald article.

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UPDATE: The Press Herald's Editorial Board has just published a commentary on the LePage administration's renewed involvement in the Brunswick Layover Facility decision. Referring to the governor's opposition and the last-minute involvement of the DEP commissioner, they wrote:

"The state’s involvement in a proposal over which it has no final say is a splashy and entirely symbolic move, and nobody should count on the heightened environmental concern on the part of the governor and his allies to outlast this fall’s election."

The full editorial is well worth reading. Go here.

UPDATE: Bangor Daily News publishes additional details on DEP's involvement in Brunswich Layover Facility. The review (actually, re-review) of the BLF's Storm Drainage Permit will be "by the book." Read here.

MeDEP Commissioner Creates New Obstacles to NNEPRA's Renewed Storm Water Runoff Application

Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water, Commissioner Patricia Aho of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection said, in effect, "Not yet! I have 21 more questions."

drip

NNERPA's renewed application for a storm water runoff permit for the Brunswick Layover Facility was quickly labeled unacceptable and incomplete as new questions were added to the process.

The initial permit has been approved by the DEP. The DEP had even given NNEPRA guidance as to who was an 'abutter.' That permit was ultimately thrown out by a judge who said more 'abutters' needed to be notified. So NNEPRA notified the additional interested parties and refiled the application. NNEPRA then met with the DEP for 2 1/2 hours and discussed the application in detail and answered several of the concerns that the DEP had raised. Then, out of the blue, the DEP struck back after they had assured NNEPRA that they didn't foresee any significant problems. And let's not forget, the Federal Railroad Administration, which has jurisdiction over railroad matters, found 'No Significant Environmental Impact' to the construction of the BLF.

NNEPRA Executive Director Patricia Quinn is quoted in the Bangor News article that she is eager to provide any answers the state requests.  The water torture continues.

Go here for the article.

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NNEPRA Exec. Dir. Patricia Quinn Concludes, "We're ready to go" with the BLF Once Storm Water Permit is Approved

Brunswick Items

Ms. Patricia Quinn, NNEPRA Executive Director, briefed the board on various items, including the Downeaster Brunswick Layover Facility. She reported that she had a 2 1/2 hour meeting with the Maine DEP addressing in particular the storm water permitting process. As a result, the permit has been resubmitted and notification of the abutters has been expanded. This is a 45-day process that allows for public input. The meeting with the DEP addressed several other issues: the water table, air quality and storage of lubricants on the property. None of those issues was considered a problem.

Ms. Quinn met personally with two legislators and talked with a third on the phone regarding their letter suggesting that the layover facility be built in South Portland. She characterized the conversations as productive.

On the issue of idling at the Brunswick Station, Ms. Quinn stated that she was examining a way to reduce the idling time by shifting the current 12:30p arrival to 3:00p. Also, #687 would be shifted to a 6:05p departure from North Station (currently 5:40p) and become the evening train to Brunswick. We were reminded the the BLF is the solution to multiple issues, including this one.

Performance Report - Fiscal Year 2014

From the NNEPRA report: "FY 2014 marked a milestone for the Downeaster, as the 5 million passenger mark was met and exceeded. The year itself was successful with record-breaking ridership exceeding 536,000, which is a 4.6% increase over the previous fiscal year. Increases in ticket revenue were even more significant, exceeding $8.6 million, surpassing the previous year by 6.2%. Customer satisfaction for FY2014 was 93 as compared to Amtrak's overall CS of 86."

Action Alert!

ACTION ALERT!  ACTION ALERT!  ACTION ALERT!

downeaster20It’s time to add your voice as a Downeaster supporter.

Phone calls are still preferred – [Governor Paul LePage – 207-287-3531 or toll free 1-855-721-5203] and simply identify yourself and your town and say that you are calling to have your name added to the list supporting the position of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) to construct the Downeaster Layover Facility in Brunswick on the site authorized by the Federal Rail Administration (FRA).

You can leave the same message for the Commissioner of Transportation, David Bernhardt at 207-624-3003 or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Thanks for whatever you can do.

Wayne Davis, Chairman 
TrainRiders NorthEast

ALERT FOLLOWUP:

One of our board members just dialed the governor's office and reports the following: 

"Talked with a very polite woman in the governor's office who passed me on to the 'Governor's Hotline.' Left a recorded message supporting NNEPRA's Brunswick Layover Plans. Keep in mind that the layover facility affects all Downeaster riders regardless of state since the BLF will result in more trains and passengers between Brunswick and Boston. It will also protect the trainsets and maintenance crews from wintry weather. You don't need to be a Mainer to call in and leave your opinion."

Freeport Chamber Sends Letter to Governor in Support of NNEPRA's Brunswick Plans

The Freeport Chamber of Commerce has sent a letter to the governor in support of NNEPRA's Brunswick plans concluding that... 

"The Freeport Chamber of Commerce is concerned  that the delay of Downeaster service improvements – like the Brunswick layover facility – will harm our local businesses and will have a negative economic impact on the entire region.  We, therefore, urge your support of NNEPRA’s planned Brunswick facility, which will allow increased ridership and services throughout the region."

===Full letter below===

August 19, 2014

 

The Honorable Paul LePage
Governor, State of Maine
#1 State House Station
Augusta, Maine 04333-0001 

Dear Governor LePage:

The Greater Freeport Chamber of Commerce, representing more than 200 local businesses, fully supports the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority in their efforts to maintain and increase passenger rail service to Freeport and Brunswick.  Business owners in town regularly comment on the positive economic impact that the Downeaster train riders have brought to Freeport.

In 2013, over 16,000 passengers arrived and departed in Freeport.  Additionally, over 10,000 inquiries of local businesses have been made at the Train and Visitor Information Center located adjacent to the train platform.  The passenger train service has been critically important to the success of the many restaurants, shops, and lodging properties in the area.  Freeport is very supportive of the planned layover facility in Brunswick.  Having trains overnight and be serviced in Brunswick will allow for the scheduling of more round trips to and from Boston that stop in town.

FreeportUSA Sends Letter to the Governor Supporting NNEPRA's Brunswick Plans

FreeportUSA has sent a letter to Governor LePage regarding the continuing opposition of the Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition to the location of the Downeaster Layover Facility. FreeportUSA concludes: "It is vital to our community that Amtrak be able to continue providing our only public transportation service.  Our organization is certain that any delay or disruption to service would be harmful to our local businesses, the Town of Freeport and our entire region." The full letter is below.

===FreeportUSA Letter===

August 19, 2014

Dear Governor LePage, 

I am writing today on behalf of FreeportUSA, a non-profit destination marketing association that represents more than 155 Freeport businesses.  We wish to express our enthusiastic support of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.  The Amtrak Downeaster has had a positive impact on our community, and we encourage you to continue your support of this service that benefits our residents and guests, alike.

Freeport had been without a public transportation option for more than 10 years prior to November 2012.  As a favorite Maine destination to more than 3 million annual visitors, our office fielded thousands of calls from not only Boston and New York (where it’s not practical to have a car) but from international visitors who wished to make the trip once they landed.   Upon hearing that we could not offer any public transportation options, reactions were always filled with frustration and disbelief.  Shortly after Amtrak began service to Freeport, we stopped getting these calls.  

The Amtrak Downeaster has helped increase tourism through marketing campaigns that create compelling media about Freeport as a destination. Additionally, the Downeaster supports tourism by leveraging their marketing funds in support of regional and local efforts.  The response to the Downeaster service to Freeport has been positive, exceeding daily average ridership projections by 50%.

The Downeaster service is an asset to FreeportUSA and important to the future growth of both our organization and community. Last year, they supported Freeport’s Sparkle Celebration by providing two Polar Express-themed train excursions, which FreeportUSA used as a fundraising opportunity and an anchor event in attracting people to Freeport during the holiday shopping season. Special trips were created for Black Friday/Moonlight Madness, resulting in more than 100 shoppers arriving in Freeport between 10 p.m. and 2:30 a.m.

FreeportUSA offices are located at the Freeport Train & Information Center, so we are able to learn firsthand the appreciation that riders have for this service.  Residents and guests enjoy the safety, comfort, convenience and economic benefit of train travel.  Many Freeport residents regularly use the Amtrak Downeaster as their preferred method to commute/travel to Boston.  We frequently hear that the trains heading south to Boston are sold out, and that some travelers have learned it’s always important to purchase their tickets ahead of time.  Within our community, Amtrak has helped to alleviate traffic jams and parking shortages.

It is vital to our community that Amtrak be able to continue providing our only public transportation service. Our organization is certain that any delay or disruption to service would be harmful to our local businesses, the Town of Freeport and our entire region.  It is our hope that with your support, the Amtrak Downeaster will not only continue its service uninterrupted, but will be able to expand its schedule to meet the growing demand.

Sincerely, 

 

Kelly E. Edwards
Executive Director
FreeportUSA
PO Box 452, 23 Depot St.
Freeport, ME 04032

(207) 865-1212

www.freeportusa.com 

 

c.c.      U.S. Senator Angus King

            U.S. Senator Susan Collins

            U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree

            The Honorable Olympia Snow

            State Senator Stan Gersofsky, Senate District #10

            State Representative Peter Kent, House District #63

            State Representative Charles Priest, House District #65

            State Representative Mattie Daughtry, House District #66

            State Representative Sara Gideon, House District 106

            Commissioner David Bernhardt, Department of Transportation

            Carolann Ouellette, Director Maine Office of Tourism

            Chief of Staff John McGough

            Patricia Quinn, Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority

Patricia Quinn of NNEPRA Sets the Record Straight Regarding False Statements Attacking the Brunswick Layover Facility

From Wayne Davis:

The letter below was sent to the editors of the multiple newspapers that printed "Downeaster does not merit $16M investment" by Bob Morrison - a member of the small but noisy group of citizens who live adjacent to a large piece of state-owned property that has been used as a "railyard" since the 1860's.  Anyone who has been following this issue for the past two years should find the response of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority's Executive Director, Patricia Quinn informative and refreshing after all of the misinformation  and "noise" that's been circulated since the FRA issued its "Finding of No Significant Impact" and directed the Rail Authority to proceed with the process.

Wayne Davis

====Letter from Patricia Quinn of NNEPRA below===

Aug. 15 — To the Editor:

The Letter to the Editor published on seacoastonline.com on Aug. 11 titled, "Downeaster does not merit $16M investment" uses distorted data and inaccurate assumptions to challenge not only the construction of a train layover facility in Brunswick, but the merit of Downeaster service and the credibility of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority that manages it. The author, Bob Morrison, lives in the neighborhood adjacent to the railroad in Brunswick, and is chairman of the group opposing the construction of a train layover facility planned to be built in the former rail yard site located across the tracks. As the executive director of NNEPRA, I believe it is important that information regarding the layover project, the Downeaster service and NNEPRA is presented accurately and in proper context.

Contrary to Mr. Morrison's accusations, the basic rules of business are at the forefront of every decision made by NNEPRA, including the decision to construct a $12.7 million facility (not a $16 million facility as reported in the editorial) on a site zoned mixed use, industrial railroad corridor, in Brunswick. The Brunswick layover will improve the operational efficiency, cost effectiveness and economic impact of the Amtrak Downeaster service by converting the two non-revenue equipment moves that currently operate between Portland and Brunswick each day to revenue trips between Brunswick and Boston. It will also enhance the safety and efficiency of the layover operation and improve the reliability of the entire service.

The Downeaster service is one of the most highly regarded in the Amtrak system, based on ridership and revenue growth and customer satisfaction. Currently, 10 Downeaster trains run daily between Portland and Boston, with only four of those trips extending to Freeport and Brunswick. Despite the constraint of limited service, ridership to Freeport and Brunswick is strong, exceeding projections by nearly 50 percent. When the layover is built and equipment moves can be converted to revenue trips, passengers will have more travel options, ridership and revenue will grow, and Mr. Morrison's observation that the schedule needs to be more convenient will be addressed.

Brunswick Downtown Association Supports NNEPRA in Letter to Governor

August 6, 2014

 

Dear Governor LePage,

 

The Brunswick Downtown Association, representing nearly 300 local businesses and individuals, fully supports the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority in their efforts to maintain, improve, and increase the number of trips and passengers to Brunswick.  Downtown Brunswick has witnessed a very positive economic impact from train riders to our community. Business owners repeatedly comment about their increased sales as a result of visitors using the Downeaster.  

 

Last year, the Brunswick Visitor Center hosted over 53,000 visitors to our community – many arriving from and departing on the Downeaster.  The Brunswick Downtown Association manages the Visitor Center and as such, receives first hand comments about the Amtrak Downeaster.   Passengers enjoy the safety, the comfort, and the convenience of train travel.  One complaint we do contend with is from people who have not purchased advanced tickets as often the trips are sold out. The train cars may not be full leaving Brunswick Station, but they are filled to capacity as they approach Boston.   Even with the widely reported outages last month, the Brunswick July ridership exceeded that of July 2013, marking the trend for continued growth in its utilization.

 

Having the Downeaster serve Brunswick is important for bringing visitors to our community from the state, from the region, from the country, from across the globe.  These folks bring much needed capital to our area.  Ensuring easy access to one of the most beautiful areas of the country should be a top priority for the Maine Office of Tourism as these tourism dollars funnel throughout the state. 

 

An ever-growing number of people are using the Downeaster as their preferred method of transportation both to and from Brunswick, whether for business or for pleasure.  Parents of Bowdoin College students are very grateful for this transportation option, knowing that their sons and daughters are able to travel safely and economically.   We are fast becoming the transportation hub of the Southern Midcoast Region, serving many surrounding communities.  Continuation and expansion of passenger train service to Brunswick is a vital component of our economy and our culture, not just for our community, but for the entire region. 

 

The Brunswick Downtown Association believes that further delay and disruption in improvements to NNEPRA services is harmful to local businesses, the Town of Brunswick and the region.

Sincerely,

 

Deirdra Perry, Board of Directors Chair

Brunswick Downtown Association

 

c.c.       U.S. Senator Angus King

            U.S. Senator Susan Collins

            U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree

            The Honorable Olympia Snow

            State Senator Stan Gersofsky, Senate District #10

            State Representative Peter Kent, House District #63

            State Representative Charles Priest, House District #65

            State Representative Mattie Daughtry, House District #66

            Commissioner David Bernhardt, Department of Transportation

            Carolann Ouellette, Director Maine Office of Tourism

            Chief of Staff John McGough

            Patricia Quinn, Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority

            

 

Debora King

Executive Director

Brunswick Downtown Association - Main Street Community

85 Maine Street / PO Box 15

Brunswick, ME  04011