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Federal Funds to Upgrade Vermont's Missisquoi Rail Trail, Improve Link to Regional Network

Thu March 02, 2023 - Northeast Edition #6
WCAX-TV & VTrans


The Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) recently announced that it received $1.44 million in federal funds to rehabilitate the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail (MVRT), extending one of the largest trail systems in the Northeast United States.

The monies came to VTrans through earmarks secured by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

The trail stretches from St. Albans to Richford in the northwest corner of the state, with the 26.1-mi. route passing through forests, farmland, and several cities, towns and villages.

"This trail opened back in the ‘90s, and we continue to make investments in it to keep it a viable recreational opportunity for the state of Vermont," Daniel Delabruere, the rail and aviation bureau director at VTrans, told WCAX-TV in Burlington.

Once the upgrade is complete, the MVRT will connect to the nearly finished 96-mi. Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, and Canada's trail network, creating one of the largest regional trail networks in this part of the country, according to VTrans.

"There's no direct trailhead-to-trailhead access [to Canada], but it brings you to Richford, a Canadian border custom crossing," Delabruere said.

Towns Along Trail Hoping for More Visitors

WCAX-TV reported that officials of municipalities along the Missisquoi trail corridor believe the project will lead to more economic development opportunities for their communities, something they are looking forward to after having to deal with the pandemic and its lingering impacts for three years.

"This is an area that is heavily dependent upon tourism, especially coming from the north," explained Swanton Town Administrator Brian Savage. "COVID really shut things down and it was felt on both sides of the border."

With the international border open again, Savage said his neighbors are hoping the MVRT can help make up for some of the economic loss from the pandemic.

"The connection of the MVRT to Canada has always been special," noted Chip Sawyer, the director of planning and development for St. Albans, in speaking with the Burlington TV station. "I think it might just organically lead to more people thinking, ‘I'm going to take a trip [to] St. Albans, I'm going to start it or end there, and spend part of my day in the downtown as well.'"

Re-Surfacing to Make Up Most of the Work

Delabruere explained that although there is no major construction that must take place to improve the MVRT, the VTrans effort will likely take a few years to complete.

"What this project is going to do is rehabilitate that old surface with a new surface — same product, just new — and we are also going to extend the project just slightly from where it now ends in St. Albans. We're going to take it a little bit farther, a little closer to downtown on lower Newton Street."

Sawyer told WCAX-TV that the MVRT has always been an important recreational resource for his city.

"Having an extension of the trail deeper into the city means that we can possibly make a stronger and easier connection for even more people or families to bike and walk right through downtown," he said.

Delabruere added that the upkeep of the MVRT and Vermont's entire network of trails will continue to remain a top priority for the state transportation agency.




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