VRS: VT Western Corridor Detour Starts In May

GVRS and NECR to Connect on Summer-Long Detour Around Middlebury Tunnel. Rutland - Burlington Traffic to Add 24 Hours. Crew Issues Unresolved.

Middlebury VT — The Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) three-year Middlebury VT rail tunnel project along VRS’s Western Corridor, will enter its final phase this Spring. The installation of a 360-foot concrete pre-structured rail tunnel will be complete by late Summer. Downtown Middlebury will reclaim its town center by covering the currently open-top rail corridor. The corridor’s current 18-foot clearance will be increased to 21 feet, and the track alignment will be eased. Continuous welded rail will be laid through the site as part of the overall line upgrade that has been undertaken between Rutland and Burlington.

The decrepit 100-year-old Main Street and Merchant’s Row bridges and their supports have been removed, and temporary Bailey Bridges are carrying the grade-level road traffic over the existing rails and alignment. Currently, the track remains in place, and regular regular Rutland — Burlington traffic is operating as usual with few alterations.

Middleboro VT

Section comparison of existing bridge passage profile (magenta), and replacement tunnel (green), expected to be operational in 2020. The new tunnel will accommodate all current Plate F/G boxcars and Doublestack 3 container cars. {VHB; annotated by ANR&P}

Long way ’round

But between 04.May — 05.August (scheduled), 3,550 feet between of track between the Otter Creek truss bridge and Middlebury Yard will be pulled up for the installation of the tunnel. During the Middlebury shut-down, direct freight service from Middlebury will be rerouted via Green Mountain Railroad (GMR) to Bellows Falls, and then on NECR’s Palmer, Roxbury and Burlington Subdivisions through White River Junction, Northfield, Montpelier Junction and Waterbury, to arrive at Burlington. NECR’s – White River Jct. – Essex – Burlington. The 192-mile detour is 128 miles longer than the current Burlington – Rutland route, and will require an additional 24 hours of round-trip transport time for freight to Burlington.

Whereas current Rutland – Burlington freight business is served by a single route, three routes will be employed during the ten-week closure (Rutland – Middlebury, Burlington – Middlebury, Rutland – Burlington (via NECR). Additional temporary personnel and leased equipment to maintain current service standards include yard staff in Rutland, Bellows Falls, and Burlington to handle train assembly, leased locomotives and cars (including fuel cars to maintain critical fuel stocks) to serve the two additional routes, as well as additional train crews and service personnel. The State of Vermont is funding the lease of four extra 4-axle locomotives from GATX/GMTX Locomotive Leasing and extra that will help facilitate the rerouted moves.

Rail vital to VT economy

Traffic that normally moves between Rutland and Burlington includes most of the gasoline and diesel for Global at Burlington, as well as summer stone traffic which can’t be backed up for any period. Maintaining those traffic flows during the detour is imperative to the state’s economy.

How it works

VRS and Genesee & Wyoming (G&W) have reached a temporary trackage rights deal for the detour. Details of the agreement have yet to be filed with the Surface Transportation Board, but the rerouted trains are slated to be moved during a window of time between Amtrak Vermonter trains over the New England Central. The reroutes will utilize Vermont Rail System locomotives and crews will move out of Essex Jct. behind Amtrak’s southbound Vemonter trains daily. At Bellows Falls, the crew will turn back with an awaiting northbound reroute. The plan is to get as far north as possible, while avoiding the northbound Amtrak Vermonter.

While the trackage rights deal is in place, VRS crews will need to qualify over the NECR track. NECR operating rules will require compliance and according to one report, union train crews at NECR are not pleased with having to qualify these crews who will be operating over “their” territory.

Middlebury VT

Renewed Middlebury Center will regain its footing when the currently gaping corridor is covered, allowing for construction of a park and eliminating unpleasant train noise {VHB; annotated by ANR&P}.