VT commits to extending Ethan Allen to Burlington by 2017

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neroden

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Good article.

Apparently the funded Middlebury Tunnel alone is going to take until 2017 to finish construction, so it can't happen faster than that.

Here's hoping that the other necessary improvements to the Burlington-Rutland line get funded and happen on schedule to allow for opening by 2017.

Looking at the "funded 2015" plan and the existing state of things the VTrans webpages, it looks like most of the rail replacement (except for two short segments north and south of Middlebury) will be done by the end of 2015. It also looks like a lot of the bridge and grade crossing work will be done, though it's really hard for me to tell how much will still be left to be done. I would expect the rest of it to be done in 2016.

There's also station construction. Which would just mean platform construction at Middlebury, and possibly reconstruction at Burlington. Both could go pretty fast given that the state owns the rails, but they need to be funded.
 

FreeskierInVT

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Great to hear of some progress being made. I'm still surprised (see my post above) that Charlotte isn't mentioned as a future station stop. A platform, parking lot and station "building" were all constructed for the Champlain Flyer service; it would seem like a waste to not stop there.
 

neroden

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Well, Vermont hasn't even scraped together money to start doing an EIS for a station in Middlebury, even though the state keeps swearing that they're going to have one. So once they get around to talking about stations, the station in Charlotte may become part of the plans again.
 

JayMadison

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I hope they do extend the line, burlington is a great city and traveling out there again would be a lot of fun.
 

mlhughes0522

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That would great but also add train on Vermonter line like

55/57 SAINT ALBANS 7:00a SPF 1:00p was 7:00p

256 SPF 7:00a SAINT ALBANS 1:00p

56/54 WAS 8:00a SPF 3:15p SAINT ALBANS 9:00p

255 SAINT ALBANS 3:00p SPF 9:00p
 
P

Peter

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middlebury can always be added on later, the real passenger demand will be from Burlington to NYC. Travel times to NYC will still be longer than driving but will offer a reasonable alternative.

I think 2x daily would really help to increase demand. I have wanted to take the ethan allen a ton of times but one of the directions the time always is wrong. Will be great to offer a morning and early evening options.

I see absolutely no reason to extend a foot past Burlington. The demand will be from NYC to Burlington. Passengers from NYC to Montreal will be via the adirondak the NYers want it to stay in NY. once they do customs in montreal instead of actually stopping it will be a huge boost.

Its good to actually see 2 states caring about making rail service realistic even if they happen to be next to each other. I just wish there was support for improving trains in other areas of the country. We dont need high speed rail we need to improve the slow areas which we have just so many of.
 

jis

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That would great but also add train on Vermonter line like

55/57 SAINT ALBANS 7:00a SPF 1:00p was 7:00p

256 SPF 7:00a SAINT ALBANS 1:00p

56/54 WAS 8:00a SPF 3:15p SAINT ALBANS 9:00p

255 SAINT ALBANS 3:00p SPF 9:00p
If there are facilities available in Burlington to service and turn trains, then why not run those trains to Burlingon instead of St. Albans. There is neither ridership, nor much else other than a convenient wye and a parking siding for turning the train at St. Albans. The track from Essex Jct. to Burlington will need a little fixing up admittedly. They could just run a Thurway van to St. Albans from Essex Jct. if desired to take care of the half a dozen passengers. :)
 

CHamilton

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Vermont rail upgrade grant rejected by feds
MONTPELIER – A Vermont Transportation Agency official said Monday he was disappointed the state didn't get a federal grant that would have helped complete an upgrade to the rail system between Rutland and Burlington, but officials remain committed to restoring passenger rail service to the route.
The agency learned last week that their application for a transportation infrastructure grant of almost $10 million was rejected.

Chris Cole, the agency's director of policy, planning and intermodal development, said they hadn't learned yet why the application was rejected.

"It's a setback," Cole said. "It puts in question the timeline where we had been talking about potentially two to three years getting the train into Burlington, it definitely puts that into question, but I don't believe it jeopardizes the goal of returning passenger rail service to Burlington.
 

WoodyinNYC

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Vermont rail upgrade grant rejected by feds


MONTPELIER – A Vermont Transportation Agency official said Monday he was disappointed the state didn't get a federal grant that would have helped complete an upgrade to the rail system between Rutland and Burlington, but officials remain committed to restoring passenger rail service to the route.
The agency learned last week that their application for a transportation infrastructure grant of almost $10 million was rejected.

Chris Cole, the agency's director of policy, planning and intermodal development, said they hadn't learned yet why the application was rejected.

"It's a setback," Cole said. "It puts in question the timeline where we had been talking about potentially two to three years getting the train into Burlington, it definitely puts that into question, but I don't believe it jeopardizes the goal of returning passenger rail service to Burlington.
I don't think the decision had anything to do with the worthiness of this application. This was simply NOT the year for any Amtrak projects. I'm assuming that politics drove THAT decision. (It wasn't a coincidence.)

Perhaps the feeling was that with the House Transportation Committee moving the furniture on the Amtrak funding, that throwing TIGER into that soup would not have been productive. Also, denying hundreds of good applications reminds Congress that TIGER is seriously underfunded, and they need to put more money into the pot if they want stuff out of the pot for their districts. So maybe next year.
 

afigg

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The agency learned last week that their application for a transportation infrastructure grant of almost $10 million was rejected.

Chris Cole, the agency's director of policy, planning and intermodal development, said they hadn't learned yet why the application was rejected.
"Rejected" is too strong a word in this case. There were $9.5 billion in requests for a total of $600 million in funds. it should be regarded as simply not getting selected this year. VT was one of 4 states that did not get a TIGER grant this year. It may have been that since VT passenger rail received TIGER grants in the past 2 years, it got passed over this year because of the political need to spread the grants around.

Since VT has lined up the funds to fix up most of the tracks between Rutland and Burlington and only needs around $10 million to complete the work, the state DOT might be able to find other ways to fund completion the track work. Maybe federal CMAQ money, state pays for the remaining work itself by extending the project into another state budget year cycle. Or if the current track segment projects don't use up their contingency funds, carry the leftover funds forward and use them to replace/repair as many miles of remaining track as the funds allow. Also if the TIGER program survives reasonably intact in the FY15 appropriations, VT can try again next year.
 

CHamilton

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A post on the Amtrak Vermonter Facebook group linked to a 6/19/2015 draft of the Vermont State Rail Plan - 2015. Lots of fascinating stuff in the plan, including this discussion of extending the Ethan Allen to Burlington (3.2.1, p. 93):

Since 2012 the State of Vermont has been working on projects to prepare rail, stations, grade crossings, and bridges between Rutland and Burlington. These projects have utilized the earmark secured by Senator Jeffords. The largest project so far, at $18 million, has been in Middlebury where two overpasses needed to be replaced where the track travels through the town below grade. Work is expected to begin in mid-2015. The State of Vermont was awarded nearly $9 million in TIGER funds in 2013 to rehabilitate a portion of the rails between Rutland and Leicester. A new “temporary” station is required in Middlebury but the old station in Burlington doesn’t require upgrades. In Middlebury two overpasses must be replaced and the current design for that work involves creating a short tunnel section through the center of town. VTrans estimates the cost of completing the remaining infrastructure work needed to extend the Ethan Allen Express to Burlington to be around $26.4 million. This would provide 59 mile per hour service, the minimum for effective intercity passenger rail service. Work to be completed would include:
--Continuously welded rail where it is not currently in place, as well as new ties and surfacing;
--New passing sidings;
--Crossing upgrades;
--Station platforms;
--Two new wye tracks....

VTrans estimates that as a result of the project, Vermont subsidies for the Ethan Allen Express service will increase by up to $1 million per year.
Section 3.2.3 (p. 97) also includes an option to create new service between Schenectady and Rutland, bypassing Bennington, which could then be extended to Burlington.
 
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afigg

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The Vermont State Rail Plan is remarkably detailed and chock full of information on ridership, passenger stats, stations, service metrics, grade crossings, track status, and projections for future passenger growth. Lays out a fairly specific plan and project goals for the next 20 years, provided of course, that sufficient federal funding can be obtained,.

Based on the schedule chart, the completion of the track and bridge upgrades needed for extending the Ethan Allen to Burlington may be stretched out into 2019. What I am not clear on is whether VT has all the funding in place for the track upgrades for the extension, or is looking for more federal funds, including landing another TIGER grant. Excerpt:

VTrans estimates the cost of completing the remaining infrastructure work needed to extend the Ethan Allen Express to Burlington to be around $26.4 million. This would provide 59 mile per hour service, the minimum for effective intercity passenger rail service. Work to be completed would include:

 Continuously welded rail where it is not currently in place, as well as new ties and surfacing;
 New passing sidings;
 Crossing upgrades;
 Station platforms;
 Two new wye tracks.
FYI, for those who have not read the draft plan, the priorities for passenger rail for the next 20 years are:

A total of $370.3 million in passenger rail infrastructure initiative

s were identified in Chapter 3. Based on planning activities within the State, VTrans has identified the following passenger rail capital priorities:
 First Priority
– Extend Ethan Allen Express service to Burlington;
– Extend the Vermonter to Montreal (although this is not anticipated to require additional infrastructure investment);
 Second Priority
– Initiate a new service between Albany and Burlington through North Bennington and Manchester;
 Third Priority
– Upgrade all passenger rail routes to FRA Track Class 4 (maximum 79 miles per hour) operations;
– Add a second frequency to the Vermonter service.
The Third Priority level items are in the 10 to 20 years from now block.
 

jis

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I guess by infrastructure they mean fixed infrastructure?

I suspect there may be some rolling stock investment needed to get the Vermonter to Montreal, though that might be couched as expense and not capital. However that would be interesting since typically it is easier to get capital money than expense money since in federal budget scoring capital is scored at 80% while expense is scored at 100% to the year in which it is appropriated. Of course how Vermont does things in their state budgeting may be very different.

BTW I just discovered that the signaliing facility rule says max speed 79mph without some automation of stopping at signal in danger aspect, but 49 CFR 213.9 says Class 4 track is good for 80mph for passengers. Just a curious 1mph difference,
 
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CHamilton

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I guess by infrastructure they mean fixed infrastructure?

I suspect there may be some rolling stock investment needed to get the Vermonter to Montreal, though that might be couched as expense and not capital.
There is an interesting note on rolling stock, too (p. 104):

3.5 Equipment ConsiderationsAs current passenger rail services are maintained and new passenger rail services are considered, Vermont will face issues in terms of the maintenance of existing equipment and potential alternatives for new equipment. ...

3.5.2 Next-Generation Corridor Equipment Pool Committee

The Ethan Allen Express service currently uses Amtrak’s existing fleet of P32DM dual mode (Diesel and electric 3rd rail) locomotives to access Penn Station New York. The ability to operate in electric or diesel mode is of benefit for the Ethan Allen Express route, since a portion of the route (between Penn Station and Croton-Harmon) is electrified, while other sections of the route are not. This fleet of locomotives, used by New York State and Vermont state-supported intercity rail passenger services, will be nearing the end of their useful lives over the next five years. The States of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont are working together with the PRIIA 305 Next Generation Equipment Committee to develop a specification for a new dual mode locomotives to replace the existing fleet. Once the specification is completed by the technical committee and approved by the executive committee it may be used to procure these locomotives when funding becomes available.
 

Anderson

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I guess by infrastructure they mean fixed infrastructure?

I suspect there may be some rolling stock investment needed to get the Vermonter to Montreal, though that might be couched as expense and not capital. However that would be interesting since typically it is easier to get capital money than expense money since in federal budget scoring capital is scored at 80% while expense is scored at 100% to the year in which it is appropriated. Of course how Vermont does things in their state budgeting may be very different.

BTW I just discovered that the signaliing facility rule says max speed 79mph without some automation of stopping at signal in danger aspect, but 49 CFR 213.9 says Class 4 track is good for 80mph for passengers. Just a curious 1mph difference,
That's been around for a while and commented on several times (particularly with the PTC mandate, which could nominally raise speed limits on some routes slightly).

Vermont has a pretty good program going given the size of the state (per capita the planned spending is probably on par with Virginia), and they do seem to get the "network thing". It's just a shame you don't have more states looking at something like this...
 

neroden

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VTrans estimates the cost of completing the remaining infrastructure work needed to extend the Ethan Allen Express to Burlington to be around $26.4 million.
This is the most important number. This is the cost beyond that of the projects already funded & committed (which include the large Middlebury tunnel project).

$26.4 million seems like a pretty small number. I could imagine them actually getting the funding for that in the next couple of years.

The longest-lead-time item among the unfunded parts of the project is the rehabilitation of Middlebury station, because this requires design, planning, environmental review, etc. Everything else in the upgrades is straightfoward "upgrade in place" stuff, and a fairly recent change to the 'categorical exclusion' rules means they won't even need Environmental Impact reviews. So the rest of the repairs could be done very quickly.
 

CHamilton

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OFFICIALS ALL ABOARD WESTERN RAIL CORRIDOR PROJECT

Nearly 80 lawmakers, state officials and friends of passenger railroading took something of a victory lap Thursday with an excursion on a vintage train from Middlebury to Burlington’s Union Station and back.

The journey was to commemorate the state’s recent receipt of $10 million in federal funds to groom the Rutland-Burlington Western Rail Corridor for an extension of Amtrak’s New York-Rutland Ethan Allen Express to the Queen City.

The Vermont Rail System (VRS), which provides freight service on the state-owned corridor, furnished the excursion train – a locomotive and four cars reconfigured from 80-year-old commuter coaches originally used in New Jersey. A cash bar anchored the on-board celebration, while, in another car, a guitarist and tenor saxophonist offered musical accompaniment, the sax’s notes uncannily akin to the locomotive’s blasts as the train lumbered through a gray November landscape.

The event’s sponsor, the Vermont Rail Action Network (VRAN) advocacy group, used the train’s three-hour layover at Burlington’s Union Station for the organization’s annual dinner and meeting, where Agency of Transportation (VTrans) Secretary Chris Cole offered keynote remarks. Preceding him, speakers including representatives of Amtrak and VRS, were incandescent over the prospects for passenger rail’s return to the city.
 

Railroad Bill

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OFFICIALS ALL ABOARD WESTERN RAIL CORRIDOR PROJECT


Nearly 80 lawmakers, state officials and friends of passenger railroading took something of a victory lap Thursday with an excursion on a vintage train from Middlebury to Burlington’s Union Station and back.

The journey was to commemorate the state’s recent receipt of $10 million in federal funds to groom the Rutland-Burlington Western Rail Corridor for an extension of Amtrak’s New York-Rutland Ethan Allen Express to the Queen City.

The Vermont Rail System (VRS), which provides freight service on the state-owned corridor, furnished the excursion train – a locomotive and four cars reconfigured from 80-year-old commuter coaches originally used in New Jersey. A cash bar anchored the on-board celebration, while, in another car, a guitarist and tenor saxophonist offered musical accompaniment, the sax’s notes uncannily akin to the locomotive’s blasts as the train lumbered through a gray November landscape.

The event’s sponsor, the Vermont Rail Action Network (VRAN) advocacy group, used the train’s three-hour layover at Burlington’s Union Station for the organization’s annual dinner and meeting, where Agency of Transportation (VTrans) Secretary Chris Cole offered keynote remarks. Preceding him, speakers including representatives of Amtrak and VRS, were incandescent over the prospects for passenger rail’s return to the city.
Excellent news Charlie. Let's hope this will come to pass and stimulate other states to follow in Vermont's lead.
 

neroden

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So the funding's all in place, and the environmental clearances are all in place... most of the work can just be *done*. Middlebury tunnel is the longest lead-time item, probably followed by Middlebury station. Here's hoping they manage to mollify the locals and get that under construction ASAP.
 

MattW

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I like that they are at least considering running it to St. Albans, it just makes no sense to have to separate servicing facilities so close to each other.
 

jis

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AFAIK, St. Albans does not have much of a service facility beyond a track to park the train at with HEP possibly provided from shore, and a Wye to turn the train. Maybe they have a second track to park a second train there, maybe not.
 

PVD

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Funny how they mention the benefit of electrification as far as Croton-Harmon. I always thought the diesel fired up as soon as you hit the West Side. Well, I guess if we ignore gapping and a much lower top speed, the P32Dm with third rail would be fine. Maybe next gen equipment will deal with speed, but I'm not sure how to address gapping economically in relatively short single unit.
 

jis

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As Dutchrailnut has pointed out many times, they will never run the P32DMs in E-mode at surface track speed. The E-mode on those will be used only where absolutely necessary in tunnels. I believe the electrification to Croton-Harmon is of no relevance to Vermont service.
 

MattW

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AFAIK, St. Albans does not have much of a service facility beyond a track to park the train at with HEP possibly provided from shore, and a Wye to turn the train. Maybe they have a second track to park a second train there, maybe not.
But there's also the personnel issue. I'd imagine there will be less personnel required to service two trains at the same place than in different places.
 

jis

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Thirdrail can probably tell us more, but I am not sure Amtrak has any significant personnel in St. Albans either. The train cleaning stuff is all contracted out AFAIC, and I did not see them do anything with the engine at all other than just parking it, and then everyone headed off to the hotel.
 
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