Hope is rail line ready in 2021 for new Vermont Amtrak route

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Vermont transportation officials said they are hopeful upgrades to the rail line between Rutland and Burlington can be ready sometime next year, which will make it possible to resume Amtrak rail service between the two cities.

Officials have been working for years to upgrade the 75 miles of rail and complete a number of other projects, such as station improvements and rail crossings. One of the major projects on the route, a new rail tunnel through downtown Middlebury, is slated for completion next year.

“The reason I think we’re getting so much closer is the one remaining major project that needs to be done is well underway,” Rutland Mayor David Allaire said, noting the progress to the Middlebury tunnels.

Allaire, who serves on the Governor’s Rail Advisory Council, said he was hopeful the line will be done by the end of next year, the Rutland Herald reported.

Once the improvements are completed, officials are planning to have Amtrak's Ethan Allen Express, which now travels between New York City and Rutland, continue to Burlington.

A number of other tasks remain, like crossings and stations.

In Burlington, officials are working to determine where the Amtrak train be parked overnight and what the impacts on the surrounding neighborhood will be.

“Construction is anticipated to begin this summer on the improvements that need to be made in the Burlington area,” said Michele Boomhower, director of policy, planning and intermodal development for the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

She said the siting issues in Burlington are expected to be resolved next month.

“Our goal has always been to get the Ethan Allen to Burlington," Boomhower said.