2018 Update #7

Trees on the Track, When Amtrak Comes To Town

 

JP Sicard expects to complete tree clearing in the rail corridor by the end of this week.  This photograph, which I took on Sunday from Cross Street Bridge, shows trees cut and stacked along the east bank of the Otter Creek ready for hauling to HOPE and eventual distribution to those in need of firewood.

 

 

As a reminder, JP Sicard is clearing trees and brush along the rail corridor between Water Street and the Elm Street overpass.  As I mentioned in a previous blog posting, they are leaving stumps and root balls  in place in order to prevent soil erosion.

 

Sharp-eyed observers will have noticed that trees are still standing on the St. Stephen’s side of the rail abutment downtown.  The State has no plans to work on that side this year and so those trees will remain in place for now.

 

When Amtrak Comes To Town

Several folks have asked me recently what the plans are for a rail station in Middlebury now that Amtrak intends to introduce service between Middlebury and New York City.

 

Here’s what I can report.

 

In May 2016, Senator Leahy, Representative Welch, and other dignitaries, including then-U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, gathered at Burlington’s Union Station to announce the award of $10 million in federal funds to upgrade the Rutland-Burlington rail line for passenger rail service.

 

Completion of the upgrades will allow Amtrak to extend its Ethan Allen Service from Rutland north to Burlington, with station stops in Middlebury and Vergennes.  The service terminates in New York City’s Penn Station.

 

The so-called TIGER grant (it stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) includes funding for the construction of a passenger rail platform in Middlebury.  I’ve had this described to me as a concrete platform with railing that is approximately 12’ wide x 300’ long and sits about 8” above the rail line.  It would be constructed in the railroad right of way.  Important to stress:  this is a rail platform, not a rail station.

 

The State has asked Middlebury to select a location for the platform in 2018 so that it can be designed in 2019 and built in 2020 in preparation for Amtrak service to begin once the downtown bridge and rail work is completed.

 

How We’ll Decide Where the Train Stops in Middlebury

 

Who’s responsible for deciding where the rail platform should be sited?  Here’s how the process will unfold.

 

The Addison County Regional Planning Commission Transportation Advisory Committee is funding a study to 1) develop evaluation criteria, 2) identify potential sites, 3) analyze those sites, and then 4) recommend a preferred site.

 

A consultant to conduct the study will be chosen at the end of this month.  The study is due to wrap up at the end of June.

 

Managing the project will be Middlebury Director of Planning & Zoning Jen Murray and the Middlebury Planning Commission, with administrative support from the Regional Planning Commission.

 

There will be a number of public meetings held to gather citizen input in the process.  If you are interested in sharing your opinions about where the platform should be located, you are encouraged to attend the initial kickoff meeting, to be held in mid-April.  I’ll let you know the date when it becomes available. 

 

The consultant’s analysis will update a study that was completed in 2001 to evaluate the potential for a multi-modal transportation center in Middlebury.  While the potential for a transportation center may factor into the decision-making process, I want to stress that the TIGER grant funding is ONLY for a rail platform.

 

That’s a lot of information!  But in the interests of making sure you’re well-informed about this aspect of the Bridge & Rail Project, I wanted to share it with you.  Any questions, let me know.

 

That’s all for today.  See you downtown.

 

Please keep your comments and questions coming.  Send me an email at jgish@townofmiddlebury.org and I’ll try to cover it in my next update.

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