I'm over here in White River Junction,Vermont today. It's a really nice day. I'm at the Amtrak station awaiting the arrival of the southbound New England Central train which comes down daily from St. Albans, Vermont. This freight train stops briefly at White River recrews and then heads south to Palmer, Massachusetts and later New London, Connecticut.
The trains used to be alot more substantial than they are today. The New England Central interchanges with the Canadian National (CN) railroad at St. Albans and its not unusual to see this train heavily laden with carloads of Canadian lumber and newsprint going to such places at Atlanta, Georgia.
I'm not sure of what is going to arrive tonight. Housing starts and newspapers aren't the most lucrative market these days and I was hoping and continue to hope that this rail carrier will expand into other traffic sources namely, intermodal.
In 2007, the Vermont Agency of Transportation had a press release (see below) of a project that I thought would have a great impact on economic development and creating jobs. This project was the lowering of the Bellows Falls tunnel to allow double stack intermodal containers to pass under. This million dollar project combined with the expanding deepwater port at Prince Rupert, British Columbia would guarantee a significant source of traffic headed to the Northeast and rail traffic for the NECR.
Whether this is happening or not I'm still waiting for the train to arrive. New Hampshire had a similar project proposed to lower the clearances on the underneath the bridges in places like Madbury, Exeter and I think Kingston. The intermodal traffic source for New Hampshire would have been the deepwater port at Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The New Hampshire project still may move forward.
Source: Vermont Agency of Transportation.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 19, 2007
Contact John Zicconi
Bellows Falls Train Tunnel enhanced to accept taller freight cars
MONTPELIER – Vermont Governor James Douglas today officially opened the Bellows Falls train tunnel to larger freight cars, an economic improvement that will benefit Vermont’s short-line railroads as well as consumers.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation increased the tunnel’s vertical clearance by lowering the tunnel’s floor about three feet so that taller train cars can pass through. The tunnel can now accept modified, double-stack freight cars as well as modern auto racks, which require a vertical clearance of 19 feet, 7 inches.
The tunnel before it was modified to accept these taller freight cars was a choke point for the movement of modern auto racks (racks that carry automobiles) and double-stack containers (one container stacked atop another) into and through Vermont. This choke point has now been alleviated so that goods can move more freely and more cost effectively.
Lowering the tunnel is important for the region’s economy as goods now can move more freely and cost effectively between Canada and all of New England, as well as to points further south and west. Additional tunnel traffic is expected to remove between 50,000 and 70,000 truck trips per year from local roadways.
“Trains are environmentally friendly as they produce fewer greenhouse gases than trucks, while a fully loaded, 18-wheeler provides as much wear and tear on our road network as do 10,000 passenger cars,” said Neale Lunderville, Vermont’s Transportation Secretary. “Removing trucks from our roadways is not only good for the environment, it is a key component in helping to preserve both roads and bridges, which has a direct effect on the State’s transportation budget.”
The economic advantages of increasing the tunnel’s vertical clearance go beyond just preserving the State’s bridges and roads.
“As more goods are manufactured in Asia and other overseas locations, rail will become an increasingly important shipping method because these goods arrive in North America by sea,” Governor Douglas said. “Loading these containers at the sea port directly onto freight cars is the fastest, easiest and most cost-effective way to move them towards their final destination. The more cost effectively this can take place, the cheaper the goods can be brought to market, which benefits consumers.”
Vermont’s short line railroads such as the New England Central Railroad and the Green Mountain Railroad will also benefit from the increased freight traffic because they earn additional revenue with the increased freight travel, the Governor said.
“The newly modified tunnel will help to financially stabilize the continued operation of our short-line railroads, and keep them financially strong in the years to come,” Governor Douglas said.
The Bellows Falls Tunnel is an historic landmark located in the Village of Bellows Falls, on the New England Central Railroad mainline. The Vermont Valley Railroad constructed the tunnel in 1851.
The tunnel is 280 feet long, and extends from the north side of Mill Street to within 157 feet of the Bellows Falls Canal Bridge. This is the third time the tunnel has been lowered. Prior to the most recent renovation, the tunnel floor had been lowered twice by the Boston and Maine Railroad – once in 1897 and again in 1977 to accommodate increased car and locomotive heights at that time.
VTrans Communications Director