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  • Ronald Dawson
    #1 http://www.narprail.org/hsr.gif Map #2 http://trainweb.org/nhrra/VT-rail-vest-0bw.htm PUBLIC HEARING VERMONT RAIL CAPITAL INVESTMENT POLICY PLAN Held at the
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 2, 2000
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      #1 http://www.narprail.org/hsr.gif Map

      #2 http://trainweb.org/nhrra/VT-rail-vest-0bw.htm

      PUBLIC HEARING
      VERMONT RAIL CAPITAL INVESTMENT POLICY PLAN
      Held at the Coolidge Hotel, in White River Junction, VT on Thursday Nov.
      30, 2000 at 7 p.m. with 44 attending. Sponsored by the Two
      Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission (VT) and Upper Valley / Lake Sunapee
      Regional Planning Commission (NH) in conjunction with the Vermont Agency of
      Transportation:

      Peter Gregory of TRORC served as moderator noting that the business
      community in and around White River Junction was behind rail service. The
      presence of selectmen from Hanover (NH) and other municipalities from both
      states was noted as well.

      Ronald D. O'Blenis, PE, of Parsons Brinkerhoff Quade and Douglas consulting
      engineers was introduced. His firm is assisting Vermont in preparing the
      plan. "Vermont has always held rail -- freight and passenger -- as a
      transportation priority." he further prefaced his comments adding that P-B's
      job was to review existing rail capital needs, formulate goals and policies,
      prepare an overall plan and make recommendations to the agency and
      legislature based upon a rating system which would consider cost,
      time-frame, safety, any economic benefits, enhancing existing operations and
      opportunities to attract private funding among others.

      Charles F. Miller, Director of Rail, VT Agency of Transportation: State now
      owns 391 of 740 miles of track within the state. Many more rail projects now
      than in years past as a result of new federal impetus.

      Improvements to the existing rail system should include more off-loading,
      especially intermodal facilities, and take into account the heavier rail
      cars now being hauled by the Class I RRs. Burdensome highway shipping should
      also be transferred to rail as per TEA-21 legislation.

      Bill Magee, Iron Road / Northern VT RR: Taking over from Guilford of the
      Wells/White River line has opened all sorts of new possibilities including
      avoiding bringing in produce and commodities via more circuitous routes in
      Canada. Previously Maine and VT have been hostage to this. Irving Oil's
      participation in the New Brunswick Southern RR is testimony to interest
      north of the border in the New England market. And now french fried potatoes
      are moving out of Presque Isle each day reminiscent of the old B&A potato
      trains to Searsport.

      Laurie Barnes, pres, Concord-Claremont RR (NH): The route from Claremont to
      Concord -- old Sugar River Line -- was in direct competition with The
      Northern Line (Conc-WRJ) receiving so much attention today as a possible
      Boston/Montreal connector. "But we're still here!"

      Twin State Sand & Gravel has run out of material in NH; now has moved
      operations to Hartland, VT with 90 truckloads per day, the maximum allowed
      under Act 250. So they need rail. Our 1430 carloads in 6 months = 4000
      over-the-highway trucks removed.

      Stephen J. Glanz, manager for transportation planning, National RR Passenger
      Corp (Amtrak): "We have become good partners with Vermont helping them to
      get a better return on their passenger service. A study of VT's "western
      corridor" is in its third and final phase. But on this (east) side there is
      mounting sentiment to bring the Vermonter back into Montreal, but that's
      VT's call since it will involve additional subsidy (the state now
      underwrites Amtrak service at $1.5 million/year).

      Questioner from Plymouth, VT: What about the "Palmer maneuver" whereby the
      Vermonter has to head east out of its way, then back into Springfield (MA)
      adding 40 minutes or more? Why not take the direct route starting at East
      Northfield directly into Springfield picking up Northampton, Greenfield and
      Holyoke along the way? Track there in very tough shape and this means
      dealing with Guilford. Some reference to the U.S. Supreme Court case of 1992
      whereby Amtrak was allowed to condemn portions of the Ct. River Line in
      order to bring back passenger service.

      Amy Guerin (also with Amtrak in government affairs) reminded of the
      Congressional mandate for Amtrak to be self-supporting by 2003. Cited as
      analogy to the Vermonter rural Oklahoma service thru mainly sparsely
      populated areas. "This service has been wildly successful. Communities along
      the line have joined together and created their own market."

      The proposed High Speed Rail Investment Act presently before Congress will
      authorize Amtrak to issue $10 billion in bonds the interest for which will
      be taken as federal tax credits. Congress returns on Dec. 4 and the
      legislation, now attached to another bill, is still alive. Eleven rail
      corridors nationwide have been designated "high-speed."

      Jim Saudade, Green Mt. Economic Development Council: "I have at least 6
      companies interested in rail. Previously there were unlimited possibilities
      but more lost opportunities and frustration. Local businesses lost faith in
      rail under Guilford (one carload was 'lost' for three months!) and it will
      be tough to get them back. Don't forget the potential of Canadian tourism."

      Miller: It could take as much as $70 million to upgrade the western
      corridor. The entire annual transportation budget for the state is $340 M.
      Also a need to take a closer look at rail south of Brattleboro. Amtrak
      Vermonter focus group held earlier this year at Ascutney where the talk was
      about better stations, a better ride (track upgrades by NewEng Central RR),
      better times (i.e., eliminating Palmer), better marketing, getting back into
      Montreal and support from NH, also a user of the line.

      NH Executive Councilor Ray Burton: What is being done to improve the
      Claremont Jct. stop? Whose job is this?

      Miller: Whether to raise tunnel clearance at Bellows Falls to accommodate
      double-stacks and elimination of as many at-grade crossings as possible also
      the subject of study. In VT sidings are constructed with the state paying
      one-third, the shipper paying the same amount and RR the other one-third.
      Freight rail undergirds passenger service which wouldn't otherwise be
      viable.

      Hearing adjourned.

      [Malcolm T Taylor <northeastnews@...> December 01, 2000 3:24 PM]
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