Middlebury plans for passenger rail service

MIDDLEBURY — The town of Middlebury has received a $15,000 grant to pin down a location for a new rail platform slated to serve passenger trains that could stop here beginning as soon as 2020.
The Addison County Regional Planning Commission’s Transportation Advisory Committee this past Wednesday unanimously approved a $15,000 grant for the town to evaluate potential sites for the new platform. Area residents will be asked to help narrow the potential sites to a finalist that would then be designed, permitted and built during the summer of 2020, according to an itinerary developed by Middlebury municipal, Vermont Agency of Transportation and regional planning commission officials.
“It’s exciting,” Middlebury Town Planner Jennifer Murray said of the project and the prospect local residents will have access to Amtrak passenger rail services within three years.
Vermont learned in 2015 it would receive a $10 million grant through the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, program to ready its western corridor rail line for passenger rail service between Burlington and Rutland.
Locally, Middlebury and Vergennes will be stops along the rail line, and VTrans wants those communities to get related infrastructure in place.
The timetable requires Middlebury to finalize a location for its passenger rail platform by March of next year.
Murray said the federal grant money will cover the costs of planning and building a basic platform. It would then be up to the town to find money for any additional amenities — such as an actual train station.
Fortunately, Middlebury has already put in a lot of work researching the location for a train stop. It was in 2001 that the town commissioned a very ambitious “Multi-Modal Transportation Center Feasibility Study.” That study, done by the firm Stevens & Associates — considered a variety of spots for what was envisioned as a one-stop spot for rail and bus services. The Stevens & Associates report identified the former Middlebury rail station at 29 Seymour St. as the top choice for a multi-modal facility. That property is now owned by the Dupoise family, the longtime owner-operators of the adjacent County Tire business. The former rail station now hosts a variety of businesses.
Murray said the siting process for the new station will include the Dupoises and any other private property owners possessing land identified as having potential for hosting a rail platform. She stressed the town will “need a willing seller.”
“Proximity to the downtown is important to me,” Murray said of her personal preference for a rail platform.
Middlebury could emerge as the metaphorical locomotive driving the western corridor passenger rail schedule. That’s because 2020 is also the year during which train traffic is scheduled to detour around Middlebury for a 10-week period to accommodate construction of a massive concrete tunnel that will replace the town’s Main Street and Merchants Row rail bridges.
Efforts to reach VTrans Rail Director Dan Delabruere for this story were unsuccessful as the Addison Independent went to press on Friday.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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