Transportation Officials Seek Input On Expanded Rail Route

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(Host) Vermont rail enthusiasts have been pushing for more passenger trains for years. Thanks to a grant from the Federal Railroad Administration, the state may be getting closer to seeing that happen.

Transportation officials from New York and Vermont are looking at ways to create a new passenger service along existing rail lines in southwestern Vermont and east central New York.

VPR’s Nina Keck has more.

(Keck) It’s just a study at this point – but Vermont transportation officials are optimistic that if they find a workable route – they can get federal funding and make the new rail service operational. But finding the right route is a big hurdle.

Towns like Manchester and Bennington, that don’t have passenger rail service want it – but what’s the best way to connect them with Rutland, Saratoga Springs and Albany? A loop between the two states? That’s one option.

Another is to reroute the Ethan Allen so it runs through Manchester and Bennington. New York and Vermont have identified five possible alternatives and have been holding meetings in both states to get public input.

(Fowler) "We shouldn’t look at this solely as a southern Vermont captive service."

(Keck) Carl Fowler a member of the Vermont Rail Advisory Council was one of about thirty people who attended a meeting in Rutland last night.

Many in the crowd, including Fowler, said any new service should connect to bigger cities like Boston and Burlington.

(Fowler) "The study is broader than just what happens between Rutland, Manchester and Albany or Rutland, Saratoga and Albany. This is a complete redesign of the rail infrastructure of western Vermont for both freight and passenger and it’s markets are much broader than just the small part of the study." 

(Keck) Costa Pappis, a planner with the Vermont Agency of Transportation says there’s a lot to consider with each option including the cost, environmental concerns, congestion with freight trains and bus connections to outlying areas.

(Pappis) "The challenge now is pouring through all the technical data, and getting public comments from these meetings and figuring out what the two build scenarios will be to determine the final alternative by the end of 2012."

(Keck) Costa Pappis of the agency of transportation says if they can select a route by the end of 2012 and funding comes through, he says completing the new line might be about five years away.  

For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.

Vermont, New York Passenger Rail Study

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