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The Commons

Amtrak's Vermonter is back on the rails

Train service between Springfield, Mass., and St. Albans resumes with completion of track upgrades

Originally published in The Commons issue #121 (Wednesday, October 5, 2011).

BRATTLEBORO—After a summer of busing passengers from Springfield, Mass., to St. Albans, patrons of Amtrak’s Vermonter can now look forward to an uninterrupted train ride.

Full service for the Vermonter , which runs daily from St. Albans to Washington, D.C., resumed over the weekend as work was completed on a $74 million upgrade to 190 miles of the New England Central Railroad’s (NECR) line between Northfield, Mass., and St. Albans.

Miles of continuously welded rail, new wooden ties, and tons of new ballast were laid down over the past four months.

Freight service moved over the line as usual over the summer, but Amtrak and the Vermont Agency of Transportation decided in June to bus passengers around the track work to speed the project along.

Passenger service was to have resumed in mid-September, but damage from Tropical Storm Irene delayed completion of the project for two weeks.

According to an NECR news release, it took “a team of close to 90 people and 15,000 tons of ballast” to restore normal freight service on their line, which stretches between New London, Conn., to Swanton, on the Canadian border.

NECR said its managers worked closely with Vermont Agency of Transportation officials to coordinate the work, gain access to otherwise closed state roads and perform emergency repairs with help from neighboring railroads.

Freight service between White River Junction and New London was quickly restored, but it took until Sept. 19 to restore service between White River Junction and Essex Junction.

The goal of the upgrade of the Vermonter’s route is to allow trains to run faster and decrease travel time. More upgrades between Brattleboro and Springfield, Mass., are in the works, including restoration of passenger service to Greenfield and Northampton, Mass., over the Connecticut River Line now owned by PanAm Railways.

Upgrades to the line between Springfield and New Haven, Conn., are also about to begin.

Taken together, these two projects for the state-supported Vermonter service is expected to reduce Vermont travel times to southern New England and New York City by up to 30 minutes.

Funding was provided through a grant from the American Relief and Recovery Act.

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