This story was updated Wednesday, April 15.
Vermont Rail Systems (VRS) has launched rehabilitation of the long-unused right-of-way that runs parallel to Barre Street and the recently completed recreation path. Trains will be running on the track by June, said Vermont Rail Systems Vice President Seldon Houghton.
Vermont Rail Systems anticipates increased rail freight traffic between Barre and the mainline tracks in Montpelier. The current route crosses two aging bridges, which, according to Houghton, were going to require substantial and expensive rehabilitation to bear the weight of increased rail freight activity.
Work on sections of the existing route through downtown and along Stonecutters Way began in April. In addition to repairs on the bridge near Shaw’s, crews have replaced many ties and sections of rail. At the same time, heavy equipment is being used to restore the railbed above the recreation path and the Winooski River.
The revised track will cross the recently completed recreation path twice before it reconnects to the current route near U.S. Route 2, just east of the roundabout at the junction of U.S. Routes 2 and 302.
A switch will be installed near the new Barr Hill facility to bring the track across Barre Street and above the recreation path at the foot of Sabin’s Pasture.
Redevelopment of the railbed was at one time considered by the State of Vermont Agency of Transportation. “The railroad has taken over the project,” Houghton said.
Houghton declined to comment about VRS’s anticipated investment in restoring the one-half mile of rail.
City officials said the construction will cause occasional disruptions in access to the shared use path this spring.
“Disruptions to the shared use path will be necessary to construct various components of the new railroad tracks on five separate occasions for the initial work through the end of June.” City Manage Bill Fraser said in an email. The timing of the path closures is as follows:
Week of April 20: 5-day closure to construct box culvert at the end of Old Country Club Road.
Week of May 4: 2-3-day closure to construct path crossing at the end of Old Country Club Road (temporary crossing surface provided).
Week of May 18: 2-3-day closure to construct path crossing within Sabin’s Pasture (temporary crossing surface provided).
Week of May 25: 5-day closure and street traffic impact to construct Barre Street rail crossing at Gin Lane (date not confirmed).
Week of May 18: 5-day closure to construct Route 2 crossing alterations.
“All path closures will be the result of short-length work zones,” the email said. “As such, the path will remain open from Granite Street to the specific work zone. No alternate route or detour will be provided for travel east of a work zone with the exception of the Barre Street crossing, where path access and use may be possible.”