- #1 http://www.narprail.org/hsr.gif Map
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
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
[Malcolm T Taylor <northeastnews@...> December 01, 2000 3:24 PM]