Where Burlington's long-awaited train terminal may be built

Published: Dec. 3, 2019 at 5:13 PM EST
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Bringing passenger rail back to Burlington-- we've told you it's in the works. But there is been an ongoing dispute about where to put the trains. Now, we finally have an answer. Our Calvin Cutler found out where they may be going.

The Amtrak train would bring service north from Rutland in the next two years, ending at Union Station on the Burlington Waterfront.

The city is looking forward to welcoming passengers from New York City but did not welcome the idea of leaving the trains at the waterfront overnight. Tuesday we found out where they'll be going in the Queen City instead.

The Ethan Allen Express is expected to roll north into Burlington as soon as 2021.

The question on many minds in the past few months-- where should Amtrak service and clean the Ethan Allen Express when it reaches Burlington?

The Vermont Rail Advisory Council believes the best place is on the north side of the city, right near the McNeil power plant.

"There'd be possibilities of getting access for trucks to service the train from Intervale Ave. There's always noise there from the McNeil plant, so it's less disruptive of people's lives. It's in a narrow valley setting where it's hard to see the tracks from the cliffs above," said Carl Fowler, a member of the Vermont Rail Council.

But rail workers would still have to install 1,200 feet of side track to park the train on so it wouldn't block the main track overnight.

Vermont Rail System, which operates the line, has proposed putting a second track in front of Union Station and parking the train there. But neighbors have raised concerns about noise and fumes. And Burlington officials question that location, as well, in part, because building a second track would force the relocation of the waterfront bike path.

Vermont Rail officials still prefer the waterfront option and note that the rail council's proposal is only advisory.

"Ultimately it's VTrans' decision where Amtrak will spend the night and we'll work with them on where they decide to put the train. And certainly we'll be addressing Vermont Rail Systems operations and needs to accommodate Amtrak, as well," said Selden Houghton, the vice president of Vermont Rail System.

If VTrans opts for the McNeil location, the question remains whether that second track would still need to be built in front of Union Station.

"Except for the trains stopping for 10-15 minutes-- once in the morning, once in the evening-- the main line will be open. If the freight trains can get in now, they'll be able to get in then," Fowler said.

In the meantime, before Amtrak can come to Burlington, work still needs to be completed on local rail facilities. The platform at Union Station needs to be raised so it's ADA compliant. In addition to rail tunnel work in Middlebury and other adjustments to the local rail system, railway officials hope to have the Ethan Allen Express parked on the north side of the city by the fall of 2021.