BURLINGTON — Amtrak trains will be stored and serviced overnight in a rail yard south of the busy downtown waterfront under a state Agency of Transportation plan.
The decision, announced Thursday, came as a relief to a local developer who fought against a previous proposal to park trains at Union Station. The plan now calls for the rail cars to overnight in a yard south of Maple Street.
“I’m glad everyone saw the light,” said Melinda Moulton, the CEO of Main Street Landing. “It’s a really big day for all of us who work on the waterfront and use the waterfront.”
Moulton led the two-year effort against parking and servicing trains at the waterfront. She has been involved in developing the city’s waterfront since the 1980s, and said she did not want to see the public’s space disrupted by the proposal.
Moulton and others worried about the impact of storing the trains overnight at Union Station on residents, businesses and tourists. The 680-foot Amtrak train consists of two locomotives and five passenger cars, which would have blocked views and movement in the area, Moulton said.
“This plan was basically an expansion of the railyard onto the people’s waterfront,” she said.
The plan would have also added a second track to the waterfront to store the trains. The Agency of Transportation said in a statement that the second track will no longer be required.
The Ethan Allen Express train, which is expected to begin service in 2021, has been in the works for three decades. The train is expected to depart southbound every day in the morning to New York City with planned stops in Middlebury and Vergennes. A return train would arrive in the evening. Union Station would still serve as the northern stop for the train.
The newly announced plan allows the trains to be stored at the nearby railyard and will not affect existing operations, the Agency of Transportation said. The plan followed discussions among the agency, the city of Burlington and Vermont Rail System after receiving public comment.
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“This is the great outcome for Burlington that achieves all the goals the City has had throughout this process,” Mayor Miro Weinberger said in a statement. “We are restoring passenger rail service to downtown Burlington for the first time in decades, while also protecting the vibrancy of our waterfront, improving the Bike Path, and minimizing impacts on Burlington residents and businesses.”
Moulton said she gives credit to those who changed their mind and backed the new plan.
“At the end of the day the people who were making the decision on this they started to realize this wasn’t the right way to go and they understood it and then they had to move out of this place of resistance to this place of acceptance and willingness to do the right thing,” she said. “I’m extremely grateful.”
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