BRUNSWICK — A hearing on train noise Nov. 14, which residents of nearby neighborhoods have complained about for months, offered answers to questions but few remedies to some of the issues.

The workshop was held at the behest of Brunswick Town Council, who received multiple complaints from residents and some people from as far away as Topsham, about the noise of train horns in the area.

Residents complained that the horn noise occasionally lasts far longer than at other times, sometimes seems to be much louder, and that activities at the layover facility between Church Road and Stanwood Street can occasionally be loud and bothersome.

Before discussion began, the workshop was already contentious. Members of the audience immediately objected to not being allowed to speak up, and members of council were puzzled by the tight focus on just noise and not the other issues that had been brought up.

“Council never intended it to be restricted to just noise,” said Councilor Jane Millett. “I am very upset at the way this is proceeding, right now, right from the beginning.”

Despite objections, the workshop pressed on, with officials from the Federal Rail Authority making the steps toward reducing train noise clear: The establishment of a quiet zone.

Norma Jean Griffths, an official with the authority, said the establishment of a quiet zone requires the town meet certain safety requirements at all crossings within the zone.

“Public authorities that want to establish a quiet zone have to mitigate that risk,” she said.

Statistics collected by the authority indicate the risk of a crossing collision in the absence of a horn increases by 66.8 percent. In order to establish a quiet zone, the town would have to install safety measures that would reduce that increased risk.

“There’s a formula to see what each street requires to be done,” said Griffths.

The establishment of the quiet zone would be the responsibility of the town. Town Manager John Eldridge said Brunswick has already engaged the services of a consulting engineer, who will evaluate each crossing to determine what measures will need to be used to mitigate the risk of collisions at the seven crossings in town.

The cost of the safety measures is still unknown, and can vary wildly.

“It could run from $30,000 to the millions,” said Griffths.

Even with a quiet zone, train horns could still be sounded if that particular train’s engineer decides it’s necessary to avoid an incident.

“It is a safety device, there is a reason it is there,” said Griffths. “There are a myriad of reasons the train horn has to be blown.”

Trespassers, people approaching a crossing too quickly, workers on the track, and more could all lead an engineer to blow their horn. Every person in control of a train, said Griffths, tries to avoid accidents if they can, but almost all engineers have had at least one fatal accident.

“They all have a number,” said Griffths. “Engineers and conductors, when they hit somebody, that is something they carry with them forever.”

Another question councilors asked was how communication could be improved between Amtrak, the town, and residents to clear up any issues that residents have. In the past, the train horn has blown at odd times or hours, and councilors said knowing why could help alleviate complaints.

“We’ve got a lot of complaints about horn sounds and goings on in the railyard, and I hear rumors and nothing specific about why certain things happen at certain times,” said Councilor Sarah Brayman.

One example was an extended blast of the horn at around 8:50 one night, that officials said was actually a malfunction of the equipment.

Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, said any time incidents occur, contacting NNEPRA at [email protected] is always welcome.

“Lots of people do reach out to us and ask questions directly. We do respond to those,” said Quinn. “We do try to make those efforts to try and communicate things we think are relevant.”

As far as train layover facility noise, new equipment that could be installed by the end of the year will allow the facility to use doors at both ends. Currently, due to a lack of track equipment, doors on only one side are being used.

Residents walked away with answers, but few remedies to their complaints. Matt Miller is a resident of Bouchard Drive, which is directly adjacent to the tracks and the layover facility. He said some people he knows have already moved because of the noise.

“It answered a few questions. I wouldn’t say it addressed any of my issues,” said Miller of the workshop, adding activities and train noise has woken him up several times in the middle of the night, and some of his neighbors with small children have had similar issues.

Councilor Millett said the workshop basically determined that if Brunswick wants to do anything about noise, they’re on their own.

“Based on this meeting, it looks like Brunswick is on our own to deal with most of these issues,” she said. “Shame on this community for allowing this to be built in a residential neighborhood. Because you can’t explain that to the people who are awakened in the middle of the night.”

Council plans to discuss additional train noise meetings at its Nov. 20 regular meeting.