Blittersdorf’s Barre rail study revived

Fuel efficiency purchase fee, mileage reduction mandate also proposed in House bill

LEGISLATIVE CARPOOLING – of the three spaces reserved for legislator carpooling at the Vermont State House, this morning one is occupied by an eight-seat electric-powered van. The other two are unoccupied. Page photo

By Guy Page

A proposed House transportation bill, H552, would fund a ‘feasibility study’ of rail service between Montpelier and Barre. 

The study must be completed by next January. The bill also requires similar studies for rail service between Burlington and Middlebury and St. Albans, Essex Junction and Montpelier. 

The Montpelier-Barre rail study would be the second in three years. Upgrading almost eight miles of railroad track between Montpelier and Barre to handle commuter rail would cost up to $97 million, VT Agency of Transportation (AOT) Rail and Aviation Bureau Director Dan Delabruere told the House Transportation Committee in January, 2020. 

The estimate is found in the commuter rail study requested by the committee in the 2019 Transportation Bill and published in November of that year. AllEarth CEO David Blittersdorf purchased 12 diesel-powered, self-propelled Budd commuter rail cars in 2017 and has expressed a desire to run the cars between Montpelier and Barre. The study does not mention any commuter rail proposal or estimate operational costs. The $67-97 million estimate is for necessary track upgrades alone. 

Employer commuter reduction mandate – the bill also would “require certain employers to establish a transportation demand management (TDM) plan.” All employers with 50 or more employees performing services for the State would be required to design, adopt, and implement a TDM plan that includes measures to reduce vehicle miles traveled. And it would allow the Vermont Agency of Transportation to develop rules for TDM implementation.

Fuel efficiency fees and rebates – H552 also would create “the Efficiency Fees and Rebates Task Force to calculate purchase fees for non-fuel efficient cars, SUVs and trucks and rebates for fuel-efficient cars, SUVs and trucks. This carrot-and-stick scheme would assess vehicle purchase fees of up to $750 for the least fuel-efficient, and rebates of up to $1500 for the most fuel-efficient.  

The bill also appropriates $20,000 to market the efficiency fees to Vermonters.

H552 also would fund $11 million in grants to install Level 2 car chargers in apartment buildings, businesses and municipalities

Four of the bill’s lead sponsors sit on House Transportation. 60 House members have signed on as sponsors – no Republicans among them. H552 is now in House Transportation.

18 replies »

  1. But railroads are dirty, smelly, noisy, and hobos, and the school kids who use the tracks to walk to, and from school (rather than sidewalks) may be endangered. Yada, yada, yada. All these points were brought up by the people of Mount Peculiar when a study was done before approval of the granite being shipped south from Barre on these very tracks, what, six or eight years ago. The bottom line should be, does it make economic sense, or will it be a money pit as the line from Charlotte to Burlington (the Champlain Flyer) proved to be a few years ago when NBC did a news clip on that boondoggle ? There is also this article in the Valley News about this attempt. (https://www.vnews.com/Energy-entrepreneur-hopes-to-bring-commuter-rail-to-Vermont-12701024) You can also go to Wikipedia and look up “Champlain Flyer”. In the NBC exposa it was stated that there were usually about seven people that used the train regularly, and considering the cost it would have been far cheaper to buy each rider a taxi ride every day to and from work. I’m afraid that due to the rural aspect of Vermont, and a love affair that most of us have with driving ourselves, that rail travel is a pipe dream for the green people. (and I ain’t talkin’ about the little green men from Mars !)

  2. Sure seems like beating a dead horse to fund a rail study, again. There are 60 legislators that need to have their campaign finances investigated. These same 60 need a civics lesson based on the Articles in Chapter 1 of the Vermont Constitution. The applicable Article for this is 7. The part about “ and not for the particular emolument or advantage of any single person, family, or set of persons, who are a part only of that community;”
    Sad part is, these alleged legislators don’t even try to hide it anymore.

  3. While the Vermont legislature at the behest of the monied interests from the renewable energy industry and the climate activists turn Vermont up side-down with mandates that will do nothing to mitigate climate change………China, India, Japan and third world and other countries continue to build and operate more and more coal fired power plants………And Joe Biden has this country importing oil from Russia while US drilling rigs stay idle driving the cost of our heating fuels and gasoline through the roof.

    Can anyone in the Vermont legislature responsible for creating all these new studies, laws, task forces and commissions dealing with climate change please tell Vermonters what they will get out of all of this junk legislation being produced?

  4. Have the Progressive Democrats completely lost their minds? Burning thru Build Back Better before it’s even passed into law!

  5. Never saw a noisemaking, bird-killing windmills, or meadow-blighting, China-made and heavy metals-laden solar panels that he didn’t love. I mean…..what’s not to like about reaping millions from Vermont progs by selling “green” energy? Better yet, much of it subsidized by “Efficiency” Vermont – your tax dollars at hard work, folks!!! And now, its a fume-belching, noisy train. Maybe he’d like to set up his reisdence next to the tracks off the Barre-Montpelier Road! You can’t make this stupid stuff up, eh!!!

  6. Wouldn’t it be much cheaper to buy this guy a model railroad set and let him play conductor all day everyday. Did I hear him say 12 Diesel powered self propelled rail cars? Diesel, isn’t that a dreaded fossil fuel?

    • At 67 million (low end estimate from last rail study) A 40 passenger bus could run 24/7/365 for decades- and still be empty of passengers…
      This is about Crony Socialism. Using legislation to enhance campaign donors wallets, while enhancing the legislator’s campaign funds. All very questionably legal. And yes, some legislators of all parties are guilty of this legal loophole- and some legislators abhor it.

    • The antique (60-year-old) Budd RDC diesel powered cars get 2.5 MPG for each unit. Since they are generally operated in two-unit trains means that the passenger train would operate at an efficiency of 1.25 MPG. When you consider the fixed route he trains would follow between Barre or Montpelier following the Garre-Montpelier Road compared to the diverse routes covered by GMTA – it’s a no brainer that Blitterdorf’s “Choo Choo” dream makes no economic sense !

  7. Just pay me whatever is appropriated for the feasibility study, and I’ll give you the answer: Commuter rail service between Barre and Montpelier wont work. Mass transportation requires a mass to transport, and there ain’t no such mass in li’l ol’ Washington County!

  8. i agree with Mr. Koch. rail does not work in Vermont because there are not enough people. government should be making less regulations rather than more. regs always drive up cost of living for average citizen and do not produce the benefits supporters claim

  9. the house in Montpellier should only meet once a year! that would seriously mitigate the damage they do to Vermont!

  10. Quixote Progressives never solve problems, only “study” them and get big money for doing so. I vote we pass on this idea……..this dumb idea.

  11. With the cost of new rail bed (where there never was a railroad) between 1 million to 2 million dollars per mile, who arrived at $67-97 million dollar figure? Just upgrading the existing bed with ties, stone, and rails should cost a fraction of the “estimate.” Unless, of course, Blittersdorf is running this project.

  12. Rail between Barre and Montpelier? You mean the track that runs alongside the Barre-Montpelier road? The road with the bus lime that runs on it?

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