Train Storage Site in Burlington Raises Concerns

A developer in Burlington, Vermont, has raised concerns about a proposal to store Amtrak trains overnight at the city’s Union Station.

The issue has arisen because the state-supported Ethan Allen Express is expected to be extended to Burlington in 2021 or 2022.

The Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission has identified five potential sites to store the trains between runs with Union Station ranked at the top of the list.

However, Melinda Moulton, CEO of Main Street Landing said storing trains along the waterfront would threaten its current use as a public park and recreation area.

“By allowing the railroad to basically expand the railroad onto the waterfront, it’s not just about expanding an Amtrak,” said Moulton, who supports the return of rail. “It’s about changing the character of the community.”

Eleni Churchill, the regional planning commission’s transportation director, said the study examined air quality and noise as well as other factors.

“We actually had a very colorful public meeting, I would say,” Churchill said. “A lot of people came out to give us their comments, and that was good. We needed to hear all that.”

The Vermont Agency of Transportation, which funds the Ethan Allen Express, will make the final decision on where the trains are to be stored overnight.

The Ethan Allen Express currently operates between New York and Rutland, Vermont.

The extension to Burlington would add additional stations in Middlebury and Vergennes.

The equipment to be used for the service includes two locomotives and five passenger cars.

Churchill said that regardless of where the train is stored overnight, a siding will be built adjacent to the existing railroad track along the waterfront because the line is used for freight service.

Nick Cartularo, a VTrans spokesperson, said the report created by the Chittenden planning agency is not binding and there is no set timeline for making a decision on where to store the train.

Also sites studied for storing and servicing the trains during their layover include two sections of the Urban Reserve, land north of the waterfront near the bike path; Flynn Avenue, next to the new City Market store; and the existing railroad near Perkins Pier.

Union Station topped the list because it would have a low impact on current train operations.

It also had advantages in terms of cost, infrastructure, horn noise and travel distance for the crews.

It also was rated the closest site in proximity to residences and posted the worst score for air quality and emissions.

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