Ethan Allen Discussion, including Expansion (Burlington)

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Ethan Allen Discussion, including Expansion (Burlington)

Postby CNJ » Sun Aug 21, 2011 9:24 am

Interesting article from the Burlington (VT) Free Press:

http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/arti ... ns-dollars
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Re: Expanding the Ethan Allen to Burlington

Postby NellieBly » Sun Aug 21, 2011 11:16 am

I posted about this subject on another thread, but readers may find a post here informative and more accessible.

A Swiss corporation called Omya owns a marble quarry about three miles from the VTR line, 20 miles north of Rutland. They have a processing plant in Rutland, on VTR, that reduces the marble chips to calcium carbonate, a chemical. Currently, the rock moves by truck from quarry to plant -- 177 round trips a day.

Omya and the state just received a "record of decision" on an environmental impact study of building a 3.5 mile rail spur to connect the quarry to VTR. Omya has offered to contribute $20 million toward the cost. That will pay for construction of the spur, which is now ready to start, but the VTR line between the junction and Rutland also needs upgrading to handle 286,000 lb. freight cars. The state would also like to run Amtrak service, as the article in the original post notes.

The state is hoping to use Omya's contribution plus the $19 million in earmark money (which is "no year" money) as the local match for a TIGER grant to cover the cost of upgrades between Middlebury and Rutland, including CWR, ties, surfacing, and bridge strengthening. This will not be an HSR project; it will be for both freight and passenger service. Omya will stop running the 177 truck trips and will operate two 20-car trains a day.

This is a "win-win" for the state of VT, its people, and Omya. I hope to see Amtrak running to Burlington within a couple of years. But first, the state has to get that TIGER grant.
Randy Resor, aka "NellieBly" passed away on November 1, 2013. We honor his memory and his devotion to railroading at railroad.net.
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Re: Expanding the Ethan Allen to Burlington

Postby Noel Weaver » Sun Aug 21, 2011 12:07 pm

It would not be very practical to extend the Rutland train to Burlington as long as it continues to use the present route between Albany and Rutland as it would require turning the entire train on the wye south of town or it would require a move like the Vermonter has to do at Palmer for the engineer to change ends with either an engine at the other end or at least a cab car. It would make much more sense to run the train via North Bennington, Rutland and on to Burlington. It would then be a relatively simple move and straight away at all locations. They could turn the engine on the turntable at Burlington or better yet run the train over to Essex Junction and turn the whole train on the wye there. It would be a positive move for Vermont and after all, Vermont is the state that is paying the bills for this service so it would be a plus for them to have rail passenger service all up and down the west side of the state. The train would serve both resort areas and college towns as well and this is always a plus. My guess is that a train of this nature would do quite well.
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Re: Expanding the Ethan Allen to Burlington

Postby shadyjay » Sun Aug 21, 2011 1:50 pm

Yes indeed it would make more sense to run the EA into North Bennington, then up through Manchester, Rutland, and Middlebury to Burlington. The grants that the state of Vermont was applying for were to upgrade tracks between Rutland and Burlington. Some portions of this track are already in really good shape, especially from Shelburne north to Burlington, complete with CWR. Track south of Rutland towards Manchester would require a lot more work to bring up to passenger train speeds.

A good interim solution would be to run the EA as it does now, into Rutland, change ends at the station, then head out to Burlington. As mentioned, a second engine would be required, as would having the seats on the train split half & half, but the connection from RUT to the line to Burlington favors a westbound and having the station stop in Rutland would eliminate a middle-of-nowhere change of direction (not that Palmer is in the middle of nowhere, but its far from any passenger stop).

Once that service is up and running, then go after funds to rehab down south. It's not just VTRS trackage that you'd have to rehab/traverse over, but also some miles of Pan-Am Southern, and we know how they can be, in regards to pax trains. At present - they seem quite positive.
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Re: Expanding the Ethan Allen to Burlington

Postby afiggatt » Sun Aug 21, 2011 5:03 pm

NellieBly wrote:The state is hoping to use Omya's contribution plus the $19 million in earmark money (which is "no year" money) as the local match for a TIGER grant to cover the cost of upgrades between Middlebury and Rutland, including CWR, ties, surfacing, and bridge strengthening. This will not be an HSR project; it will be for both freight and passenger service. Omya will stop running the 177 truck trips and will operate two 20-car trains a day.

This is a "win-win" for the state of VT, its people, and Omya. I hope to see Amtrak running to Burlington within a couple of years. But first, the state has to get that TIGER grant.

There is $527 million authorized for TIGER FY2011 grants. The competition for those funds will be pretty intense, as it was for the 2 previous rounds. However, Vermont might have a decent shot as part of the FY2010 TIGER grants had to go to rural areas. (Presumably the US Senate having it's say). Since there are not exactly many streetcar, light rail, pedestrian, bicycle, urban highway removal projects in rural areas, many of the rural FY2010 grants went to freight rail related projects. There are highway projects in the awarded TIGER grants, but not that many.

Looking up the FY2011 TIGER grants, if I am reading the Federal Register correctly, $140 million will have to go to "rural" areas. If Vermont plays up the benefits of removing 177 daily truck trips beating up the local state roads and adding to air pollution, with a secondary benefit of getting some of the track & signal upgrades needed for passenger rail, and asks for an amount that can be handled by the FY11 funding, Vermont might get selected. Most of the FY10 TIGER grants were between $10 and $20 million with only 5 grants larger than $20 million, so Vermont is not likely to get more than $15 to $20 million. One question is whether the Jeffords earmark money will be considered as legit for local match. The second is whether Rutland to Burlington would be considered as a rural area. I would with the possible exception of Burlington itself, but I can see where the federal rules for the definition of a "rural" area can get very funky given the effect on distribution of federal funding.

As for the Jeffords earmark money, it has been in the books for a while. Is there a reason why Vermont has not tapped more of it before now?
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Re: Expanding the Ethan Allen to Burlington

Postby afiggatt » Sun Aug 21, 2011 5:27 pm

shadyjay wrote:Once that service is up and running, then go after funds to rehab down south. It's not just VTRS trackage that you'd have to rehab/traverse over, but also some miles of Pan-Am Southern, and we know how they can be, in regards to pax trains. At present - they seem quite positive.

There is a funded NY-VT Bi-State Intercity Passenger Rail Study underway to examine the alternatives for the southwestern VT corridor through North Bennington and up to Rutland which has it's own website at http://www.ny-vt-passengerrail.org/ . A 3 MB slide presentation from a June public meeting can be found at http://www.ny-vt-passengerrail.org/docu ... _Final.pdf

The study is still on-going, but some of the slides suggest that restoring passenger service through SW Vermont won't be that cheap. Makes sense to split the service extension into 2 parts. Extend north from Rutland to Burlington, backup move and all, with what money they can get now, to build ridership and demand. Then get the funding to complete the entire western corridor route.

The advantage to NY state is that they could get several more station stops northeast of Albany with direct service to NYP. The disadvantage is that NY state loses service frequency north of Schenectady. Perhaps if service is added through SW VT, it is added as a second daily train to Burlington while the Ethan Allen stays on the current route to Rutland and north to Burlington? To boost the ridership and justify the cost for upgrading the tracks, the goal should be to eventually have at least 2 daily trains from Burlington & Rutland to Albany to NYP.
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Re: Expanding the Ethan Allen to Burlington

Postby jstolberg » Sun Aug 21, 2011 6:20 pm

If I recall correctly, the Jeffords earmark also requires a 20% local match. Now if the State were willing to put up $5 million, they could probably take $5 million of the Jeffords earmark and apply for $15 million in TIGER grants for a $25 million project.

Hopefully the track between Charlotte and Burlington is still in somewhat reasonable shape following the Champlain Flyer experiment of the 90s. Improvements south of Charlotte would be outside a Metropolitan Statistical Area as defined by the Census bureau and should qualify as 'rural'.

Since they can't get the $70 million in one shot, do what can be done with $25 million, start the service, and then apply for another grant.
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Re: Expanding the Ethan Allen to Burlington

Postby Station Aficionado » Mon Aug 22, 2011 9:58 am

afiggatt wrote:Makes sense to split the service extension into 2 parts. Extend north from Rutland to Burlington, backup move and all, with what money they can get now, to build ridership and demand. Then get the funding to complete the entire western corridor route.

The advantage to NY state is that they could get several more station stops northeast of Albany with direct service to NYP. The disadvantage is that NY state loses service frequency north of Schenectady. Perhaps if service is added through SW VT, it is added as a second daily train to Burlington while the Ethan Allen stays on the current route to Rutland and north to Burlington? To boost the ridership and justify the cost for upgrading the tracks, the goal should be to eventually have at least 2 daily trains from Burlington & Rutland to Albany to NYP.

I agree that 2x/day service from Burlington/Rutland should be the goal. The documents on the Vermont AOT website don't make clear (at least to me) how the Burlington and Bennington initiatives are coordinated. Given the higher population of the Burlington/Middlebury area and the traffic congestion found north of Middlebury (especially north of Shelburne), I would think that extending the current route to Burlington would take priority over establishing service to Bennington. The significant added cost of improving the route from Rutland through Bennington to Hoosick also weighs in favor of concentrating on Burlington.

Re the question of how to get the train from Rutland to Burlington using the current route, how is the EA trainset turned now at Rutland? Or is it just the locomotive? Looking at the aerial view on Google, it looks like there might be a wye south of the station, but the resolution isn't very good. If there is a wye there, perhaps the whole train could be wyed for the trip to Burlington. At the risk of getting off topic, this situation might call for trying out a DMU train with cabs at both ends.
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Re: Expanding the Ethan Allen to Burlington

Postby TomNelligan » Mon Aug 22, 2011 11:53 am

Today's installment of the Free Press series focuses on the current New England Central trackwork project:

http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20110822/NEWS02/110821021/Vermonter-tracks-undergo-74M-upgrade
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Re: Expanding the Ethan Allen to Burlington

Postby afiggatt » Mon Aug 22, 2011 5:28 pm

Station Aficionado wrote:Re the question of how to get the train from Rutland to Burlington using the current route, how is the EA trainset turned now at Rutland? Or is it just the locomotive? Looking at the aerial view on Google, it looks like there might be a wye south of the station, but the resolution isn't very good. If there is a wye there, perhaps the whole train could be wyed for the trip to Burlington. At the risk of getting off topic, this situation might call for trying out a DMU train with cabs at both ends.

I see the wye south of the Rutland station on Google Earth with a poor resolution image also, but it looks to be rather short and may not be in service. Putting a cab car on the train for service to Burlington may be the easiest solution. Whatever Amtrak is using on the Vermonter (2nd loco or cab car) will be freed up when the track work is completed in central Mass and the Vermonter is re-routed, if there is a shortage of cab cars.

As for DMUs, Amtrak discusses them in Version 2 of the Fleet Strategy Plan (pages 60-61). The plan states that DMUs can be more efficient for shorter consists. But there are no active builders of FRA compliant DMUs in the US and while non-compliant DMUs have been delivered for the US commuter market, they are restricted in where and when they are used. The plan states that manufacturers would probably want a order in excess of 100 cars to start and there are no prospects for an order of that size. The plan document shows no real interest in DMUs as Amtrak obviously prefers the operational flexibility of locomotives and standard coach cars.
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Re: Expanding the Ethan Allen to Burlington

Postby Station Aficionado » Mon Aug 22, 2011 6:22 pm

afiggatt wrote:Putting a cab car on the train for service to Burlington may be the easiest solution. Whatever Amtrak is using on the Vermonter (2nd loco or cab car) will be freed up when the track work is completed in central Mass and the Vermonter is re-routed, if there is a shortage of cab cars.

I think you're right about that. In the interim, Rutland-Burlington would be a fine candidate for a Thruway route, especially since, IIRC, intercity bus service in that area disappeared when Vermont Transit was fully folded into Greyhound.
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Re: Expanding the Ethan Allen to Burlington

Postby Dick H » Mon Aug 22, 2011 7:34 pm

The Ethan Allen uses that wye south of the Rutland station
every evening to turn the train for the morning departure.

Since Amtrak began using cab cars on the Harrisburg line,
there probably insufficient cab cars to add to a Vermont
train. A NPCU "cabbage" would be preferable IMO, to cope
with northern New England winter snows and for better
protection at the many urban and rural crossings.
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Re: Expanding the Ethan Allen to Burlington

Postby JimBoylan » Tue Aug 23, 2011 11:02 am

How many unconverted Metroliner MU cars are left, if more cab cars are needed?
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Re: Expanding the Ethan Allen to Burlington

Postby trainviews » Tue Aug 23, 2011 11:29 am

And here's the third article from todays Burlington Free Press - about the plans to extend the Vermonter to Montreal.

http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/arti ... |FRONTPAGE
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Re: Expanding the Ethan Allen to Burlington

Postby Railjunkie » Wed Aug 24, 2011 8:20 am

We do use the wye to turn the train everynight, however Im pretty sure its FRA excepted track. You cannot use excepted track in anyway with a live passenger train, (carrying passengers) I dont have my books at home so I cant look it up to be sure.
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