Omya puts Middlebury rail spur on hold
MIDDLEBURY (AP) — A proposed $32 million rail spur that would be used to alleviate truck traffic between marble processor Omya Inc.’s quarry in Middlebury and its calcium carbonate plant in Pittsford has been put on hold indefinitely.
Given the sluggish economy and cost of the project, the company and Vermont Rail Systems are not pursuing it, said Omya plant manager Jim Stewart.
“We worked very closely with the railroad and the state of Vermont and it’s going to lie dormant for now,” said Stewart, who became manager of the Pittsford plant in August. “I don’t believe we can economically go for it.”
He told the Rutland Herald that an analysis determined that constructing the rail spur would cost far more than continuing to move the raw material by truck on Route 7.
The project was intended to alleviate truck traffic on Route 7, which runs through Brandon’s historic downtown.
The project was estimated to cost about $7.5 million when it was first discussed about 20 years ago, said Vermont Railway President David Wulfson.
“It’s taken so long to go through the environmental work on the project, and so many years have passed, it’s just gotten very expensive,” he said.
Some neighbors of the proposed rail spur have opposed the project, which includes a 2,050-foot trestle over the Otter Creek and Creek Road and a 2.2-acre loading facility. They worry about falling property values, losing the tranquility and beauty of their rural neighborhood and the introduction of potentially dangerous railroad crossings.
Many have also voiced disdain for Omya using a very old eminent domain statute that favors railroads over residential property owners.
Some of the property was protected by conservation easements, but the outcome of a federal environmental impact study meant that the project didn’t have to go through the Act 250 land use permitting process.
“This is the right decision for Omya, Vermont Railway and especially the neighborhood,” said Annette Smith, head of Vermonters for a Clean Environment. “The only other good news I’d like to hear is that this is the final decision and that this is not going to come back again and create (an) uproar in the neighborhood all over again.”
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