Bennington Trains

Vermont Rail Action Network

Vermont Rail Action Network

Promoting the revitalization of Vermont's rail network for passengers and freight

 

All-Aboard_BenningtonVermont’s Track Three ARRA grant.

In addition to the grant to upgrade the route of the Vermonter, The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded a $1, 000, 000 grant to Vermont and New York to plan and prepare for rail service from Rutland thru Bennington County to Albany and New York City.  The grant is equally split between New York and Vermont.  The federal government provides $500,000 and each state contributes $250,000.

What would the grant do?

Lay the planning groundwork for a multiple frequency passenger train service north of Albany to Bennington, Manchester and Rutland and also Saratoga and Rutland.  The Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT) will award the grant to a planning agency or consultants to study what is necessary to restore passenger rail service and determine what engineering and financial needs would be necessary to make this happen.  The grant should result in agreements with the freight railroads who own the tracks to be used, an operating plan and an environmental assessment and necessary permits.

What would be the Route?

The study considers service on a loop running north of Albany with Rutland at it's top.  On the Vermont side of the loop, stations would be at North Bennington and Manchester.  The other side of the loop would turn north at Schenectady NY and stop at Saratoga and Fort Edward, NY as well as including Castleton, VT.

Four freight railroads own the tracks involved: From Hoosick Junction (just into New York State from North Bennington) through Manchester to Rutland the line is owned by the State of Vermont and leased by the Vermont Railway, part of the Vermont Rail System.  At Hoosick Junction, trains would join an east-west line operated by Pan-Am Southern.  This route is currently good for 59mph.  The most direct route to Albany, owned by the Canadian Pacific (former D&H), takes off south from Mechanicville NY, however it is in poor condition and would require reversing direction 3 times (once at Mechanicville and twice in Albany just prior to crossing the Hudson River).  It would likely be just as fast (a point that will be clarified by the study) to continue west to Schenectady, using tracks of Canadian Pacific to join the CSX freight line used by Amtrak trains to access the Amtrak Albany station.

On the New York side, trains will operate through Saratoga on the Canadian Pacific (former D&H) before turning east at Whitehall and traveling the Clarendon & Pittsford (part of the Vermont Rail System).

What Service Levels Will Be Provided?

A schedule of near four hours from New York to North Bennington and 4 ½ hours from Manchester is possible after track work is completed.

The idea is to extend trains that now run from New York City and then sit idle at Rensselaer NY in the evening and morning.  One train would continue on the Vermont side and then loop back south on the New York side while another train would run the other way.  In this way, the corridor would gain multiple frequencies which would help attract passengers out of their cars.  Extending trains that now sit idle improves the economics of the service, since it's better to have them rolling and earning revenue.  The additional patronage from passengers traveling to New York from points north of Albany will also help the economics of the existing service.

It may be that the initial idea evolves as the study clarifies ridership potential and expenses.

What is needed for right of way and track improvement?

This question will be clarified by the study and by the freight railroads which own or lease the tracks.

Significant work was already done from Hoosick Junction to Manchester in 1990-2000 including installing welded rail and some bridge work.  Some tie and surfacing work would be needed to bring this segment up to Class 3 (up to 59mph) standards.  North of Manchester to Rutland significant improvements are needed, including new rail, bridge work and tie and surfacing replacement.  This line is now rated at only 15 mph for passenger trains.

The route between Albany and Bennington will also need improvements and Vermont must negotiate with the railroads who own that track as to their requirements.

Who would benefit by the restored passenger train?

The economy of Bennington County, and especially Manchester, depend upon tourists.  The train is an easy and desirable way to come to Vermont.  Having a train will encourage tourists to come.  That's especially true for the 55% of New Yorkers that do not own cars, but it's also true for those who drive, but would rather not.  The average visitor spends $117 a night, and there will be more of them if there is a train.  Tax revenues generated by tourists would be larger than the cost of operating the service, and that's not even considering the benefit to the economy that helps everyone.

The train is a community asset that helps the region compete.  In other parts of Vermont that have train service, train service has driven decisions about where people locate for retirement and where second homes are purchased.  In this way the economy benefits.   The train also helps local businesses recruit.

In Vermont 44% of greenhouse gases are generated by transportation.  We all benefit by shifting travel to efficient trains.  As oil becomes more expensive, it is critical to Vermont's future to be linked to economic and cultural centers in a sustainable way.

As Vermonters age, mobility becomes more important.  There are many Vermonters who can not drive, for various reasons, and the train keeps families together and reduces isolation.

NB_sta_1278Where would stations be?

North Bennington would be the Bennington stop.  A restored village office would make an excellent stop.  In Manchester, local residents will determine the best location and a suitable size for any train  stop.  Rutland and Castleton, Vermont would use existing stations already opened.

When can we expect this service to start?

The grant envisions service beginning in 2015, but this is highly variable and dependent on securing funds.  The study should take two years.

How can I help?

All transportation in America depends upon public investment.  Public investment depends upon our elected representatives who act based on their perceptions of public support.  Thus it is important to make your voice heard.

Encourage the Agency of Transportation to emphasize this grant and set firm time lines.  Let your legislators know that this will be of use to you.  Follow progress of this project via this website and others (make sure you sign up at left to receive e-mail updates).  Let your friends and business contacts know of your interest.  The Vermont Rail Action Network and Southwestern Vermont Rail Corridor Committee (SVRCC) can provide you with additional information and activities.  For more information please feel free to contact Wendy Rae Woods at 802-345-5155 or email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

 

Southwestern Vermont Rail Corridor Steering Committee

Contact: Wendy Rae Woods: 
(802) 345-5155

Our aim is to bring passenger rail service from NY  to Bennington County and further north.

 

"Track 3" Documents

 Track 3 Application (The grant application that was successful)

Statement of Work

Request for Proposals for study consultants

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