Efforts to greatly improve future passenger and freight train service along the western corridor of Vermont, between Bennington in the south and Burlington in the north, have resulted in a “Smart Growth” award to the Vermont Agency of Transportation.
The award was given by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) at its annual meeting in Anchorage, AK.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation was cited for its western transportation corridor initiative, which examines multiple highway, rail and bike/pedestrian projects as part of a single, multi-modal corridor running the length of the state parallel to Route 7. The Vermont Agency of Transportation is working closely with several state and federal agencies to decrease the amount of truck traffic on this major north-south artery on the western side of the state.
In particular, the agency is seeking to reduce truck traffic between a stone quarry outside of Middlebury, VT, to a processing plant in southern Pittsford, VT, by diverting the stone product to a railroad spur in Rutland.
“This would have a very visible effect and reduce the truck traffic immeasurably,” said Matthew Sternberg of the Rutland Redevelopment Authority.
In addition, the state is trying to bring passenger rail service to the cities of Bennington, Manchester, Rutland and Burlington. Currently the only passenger train service on the western side of Vermont is the Ethan Allen Express, which runs from Albany, NY, with one stop in Vermont, in Rutland, and a commuter train between Charlotte and Burlington.
“For years we thought we might develop another major interstate in Vermont, but that isn’t going to happen anytime soon,” said Sternberg. “Now we have to develop ways to take traffic off Route 7 and efficiently provide transportation in this part of the state.”
Another major part of winning the award is attributed to the relocation and redevelopment of Rutland’s railroad yard from a prime retail location to an 80-acre site less than one-half mile away. Within three to six years, the railroad yard should be relocated, freeing its present site for development conducive to neighboring incubator businesses, and eliminating traffic tie-ups due to train traffic.
“This relocation project supports our goal of promoting strong, economically-healthy downtown areas,” said Brian Searles, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Transportation.
In announcing the award, AASHTO officials cited the cooperation of several Vermont agencies in developing a comprehensive approach to transportation planning. The idea of transportation corridors enables urban planners to consider a variety of commercial land uses from a regional perspective.
“AASHTO looks at ’environmentally-correct’ growth and development,” said Searles. “We’re working very hard to develop this corridor in the best possible way.”