BRUNSWICK, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — People in Brunswick will have their first chance Saturday to look inside one of their most controversial new buildings. The new train layover facility for the Amtrak Downeaster will be open to the public for two hours from 2 to 4 p.m.
The building is huge: 655-feet long and more than 70-feet wide — big enough to hold three full Amtrak trains.
It has elaborate ventilation, electrical and compressed air systems so work crews can service and clean those trains every day. Currently, that work is done when the trains are parked outside in Portland. Rail service managers said doing that work indoors will be safer for the workers and let them de-ice the trains in winter.
There was a lot of neighborhood opposition to the construction of the building, which delayed the project as much as two years. Neighbors complained the layover facility would be too large and intrusive for the residential neighborhood on one side of the tracks, and worried about noise, diesel fumes and pollution.
Patricia Quinn of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority said they tried to address neighborhood concerns in the design and features of the building. She said there will still be noise moving trains in and out, but that the rest of the work should be mostly invisible and inaudible because it will happen inside the building behind closed, double doors designed to hold in the sound.
“We’re very proud of this facility,” Quinn said. “We spent a long time listening to people, trying to address concerns, and put a lot of features in the building to minimize impacts.”
One of those features is an elaborate ventilation system, which will take in fresh air to dilute diesel exhaust fumes, and then pump all that air outside. Wastewater from train cars will go into the Brunswick sewer system, while water melting snow and ice will drain off the trains, be captured and filtered through an oil/water separator and then into the sewer system.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which issued the one permit for the project and rejected the neighbors' appeal in 2015, said it used an independent specialist to monitor construction and to ensure that all requirements were met. A DEP spokesman said the agency received no complaints during construction.
Quinn said 50 people will be working at the new building, though because of the 24/7 operations, only about a dozen will be there at any one time. That number will include Amtrak train crew employees, contract train maintenance workers and employees of the catering business that provides food and beverage service on the Downeaster. Those workers currently service the trains in Portland.
Besides better working conditions for the staff and the trains, Quinn said the other major benefit of the layover facility will be more roundtrips between Brunswick and Boston.
Pan Am Railway, which owns most of the track between Portland and Brunswick, restricts the Downeaster to just six times on the track each day. Currently, the train uses two of those allowed trips to bring an empty train to Brunswick in the morning, and take an empty train back to Portland at night.
By parking the trains in Brunswick, the tracks will be available for a new, mid-day departure from Brunswick. That train is scheduled to begin service in November.