Vergennes depot moving to commuter lot

VERGENNES — About a dozen years after the idea was first floated by a Vermont Agency of Transportation official, the historic, roughly 160-year-old former Vergennes train station will apparently soon be on the move from North Main Street to a site about a quarter-mile north, next to the agency’s Ferrisburgh commuter lot.
In a Sept. 21 email sent to Vergennes City Manager Mel Hawley and Rep. Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes, among others, VTrans project manager Wayne Davis said a contractor and clerk of the works have been chosen for the $1.3 million task of moving the building onto a new foundation, renovating its exterior and replacing its windows. 
“Happy news,” wrote Davis, who is responsible for managing the VTrans park-and-ride lots around Vermont and first thought of the idea shortly after the Ferrisburgh commuter lot was proposed. “After all this time, efforts, etc. this project is a reality.”
The email also announced a pre-construction meeting on the site for this past Tuesday.
Among those who were expected to attend included contractor Millbrook Building and Remodeling Inc.; S2 Architecture; Merle Miller of the Vermont Department of Buildings and Grounds, the state’s project manager for the effort; and VTrans consultant Roger Tetreault, who will serve as the clerk of the works; Messier House Moving; and VTrans official Scott Newman, who will oversee the historic preservation aspects of the work.
Davis wrote he would “oversee the project for VTrans and pay the bills.”
Funding issues, including higher-than-expected costs; shifting priorities; and, most recently in 2011, the need for VTrans  to focus on infrastructure repair in Tropical Storm Irene’s aftermath have all delayed the project at one point or another.
Initially, the effort was also put on hold while the parties worked out the complicated ownership arrangement of a larger parcel of which the land was part: The commuter lot was carved out of land on which the Vermont Land and Addison County Community trusts, conservation interests, Ferrisburgh and VTrans all had claims. Ferrisburgh is now marketing land next to the commuter lot that the town was granted as part of the deal.
Phase 1 of the project is the building move and the exterior renovation. Phase 2 calls for renovating it into a visitor center. The site lies on the railroad tracks just north of the railroad bridge over Route 22A that sits near the Vergennes-Ferrisburgh line.
The Addison County Chamber of Commerce could play a role in a renovated depot by operating a visitor center there. Chamber Executive Director Andy Mayer said many details would have to be worked out, including finding funding and staffing, but called it a good opportunity.
“There are a few hurdles … but it is such a natural,” Mayer said. “We love the traffic there … It’s a nice gateway location.”
More than half the project cost, $700,000, was in the 2012 Vermont transportation budget. The remainder comes from an “enhancement” grant, federal funds channeled through VTrans, that the agency awarded to Vergennes early this past decade.
That grant was originally for $400,000, but VTrans has increased it over the years to about $656,000, of which about $160,000 was spent years ago on installation of power and extension of Vergennes-Panton water to the site.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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