Vermont Rail Action Network

Hi friend,

Work on the Middlebury tunnel project has stopped for now, in conformance with the Governor’s order to stop all construction projects in the state to maintain social distancing to limit CoVid-19 spread.

The project was about to ramp up to the most intense phase, closing down the railroad through Middlebury with detour trains running via Bellows Falls, White River Junction and Essex Junction.  Four locomotives were temporarily leased by the state for this service.

The multi-year project has been on-schedule to this point.

The project involves replacement of two failed almost 100 year old overhead road bridges (Main St and Merchants Row) in the heart of downtown Middlebury.  New bridges are supposed to be built with enough clearance to allow tall auto-racks (one could imagine auto shipments to dealers in Burlington, for example) and double-stack containers.  In order to avoid raising the road and making a big hump in the downtown, engineers created a plan to lower the railroad tracks – something a little more complicated because of adjacent Otter Creek.  Tracks will be put in a tunnel (below water level) which will create additional parkland above in the right-of way now taken by the cut used by the tracks.

When this project is done, Amtrak service is planned be extended north from Rutland to Burlington – a long sought goal of the Vermont Rail Action Network.  A station is being built in Middlebury just north of the tunnel which will be in walking distance to downtown and Middlebury College.

This delay is really only minor among the many sacrifices I fear we are about to face.  I hope you are healthy and hanging in as you hunker down (or as you do the vital “essential” work of keeping us moving).

Further transportation sacrifices will come.  Vermont’s transportation fund is off $30-40 million due to declines in gas tax and purchase and use tax revenues.  It would be a good time to let legislators know that rail service matters.


Christopher Parker, Executive Director


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