By ANDY KIRKALDY
VERGENNES — Back in 2000, Agency of Transportation official Wayne Davis successfully pitched to his superiors and to Vergennes and Ferrisburgh officials the idea of moving the historic, now unused Vergennes train station about a quarter-mile north to Kayhart Crossing, the then-proposed site of an AOT commuter lot.
It then took seven years for that $1.1 million, 85-car commuter lot to be built in Ferrisburgh, on the city line just west of the intersection of Routes 7 and 22A — without the train station.
Now, Davis insists the other shoe will drop: By fall, he said the station, which was built before the mid-1800s but has fallen into disrepair after decades of abandonment, will stand next to the park-and-ride lot “some time before the snow flies.”
“It’s going to get it moved, and it’s going to get it on a foundation, and it’s going to get pretty stable,” said Davis, an AOT project manager for local transportation facilities around the state.
The depot, believed to be the oldest standing wooden station in Vermont, now stands off North Main Street behind Vergennes Building Supply and Champlain Discount Foods. After the move it will rest between the tracks and the AOT commuter lot, where it will be served by city water and sewer.
The cost of transporting and putting the structure on a new foundation will be paid for with a $320,000 federal grant the AOT applied for in 2001, backed by Vergennes and Ferrisburgh officials. The two communities reaffirmed their support in 2007, a decision necessary to preserve the funding. The AOT will provide an $80,000 match.
Davis does not expect those funds to pay for a complete renovation: The original budget called for an additional $300,000 to restore the building.
Davis said officials will know more about the final costs once the building is lifted off its original foundation and studied more carefully, but he expects existing funds to pay for some restoration.
“We have roughly $400,000 available to us at this point in time. We may need more before we’re done. Until we get an architect on board ... and we get it moved, we won’t have a handle on the final cost,” he said.
After the significant initial investment, Davis expects more work to follow once the depot is in place.
“The goal is to have it moved before winter sets in, so we’re rehabbing it before winter,” he said.
Once the building is restored, the goal is to have it serve as a visitor and local meeting center as well as local transportation hub, and Davis said the Addison County Chamber of Commerce remains interested in the project.
Of course, some of the underlying logic supporting for the commuter lot and the rail station have been removed since 2000. Vermont Transit buses no longer run on Route 7, although Davis said Addison Country Transit Resource buses stop at the lot, and Vermont, at least for now, has also abandoned its Chittenden County commuter rail experiment.
But in the long run, Davis believes mass transit may still have a future in which the AOT’s Route 7 and Route 22A hub can play a role, and in the meantime he said daily commuter use of the lot has exceeded two dozen cars after a modest start.
“It was a little slower catching on than what I had thought,” he said, “(but now) I’m happy with the performance of it.”