B y Derek Liebig
The Vermont Rail System has begun work on its Whitehall-to-Rutland line that is expected to reduce transit time over the company’s Clarendon and Pittsford (CPL) line.
When complete, the project is expected to result in an 18-minute reduction in the time it takes for a train to travel from Whitehall to Rutland, President Dave Wulfson said.
Work on the line began in May and the first phase of the project is expected to be complete in mid-October.
Additional work is planned for next summer.
Crews are changing over 12,000 railroad ties, resurfacing eight miles of track and improving eight crossings fromWhitehallto theNew Yorkstate line.
Rails along the line are expected to be replaced next summer and some of the jointed segments will be replaced by welded segments which are expected to improve the ride quality for Amtrak passenger trains that use the line for itsRutland-to-New York City“Ethan Allen Express” service.
Wulfson said the replacement of ties is an integral part of the project.
Ties are the wooden pieces that run across the line and form the tracks foundation.
“In order to have a good track, you need a good foundation,” Wulfson said.
Because of the condition of ties currently on the track, trains have had to slow down as they pass through track surrounding Whitehall, but once the project is complete they are expected to be able to safely pass at a higher speed, decreasing the time its trains to travel through the area.
Vermont Rail Systems has been working with Amtrak and the states ofVermontandNew Yorkon the project.
Wulfson said his company has pitched in approximately $750,000 of its own money and has received an additional $2.5 million in grant money from the New York State Department of Transportation to pay for the improvements.
The CLP line inWhitehallwas the sight of a Jan. 29 derailment of a Vermont Rail freight which canceled Amtrak service and shut the line down for a day until crews could clear the track.
After conducting and investigation, Vermont Rail Systems concluded the derailment was the result of a number of factors, and corrective measures were taken to address the problem.
Vermonttransportation secretary Brian Searless opened an investigation into the company after a letter from Amtrak officials criticized performance along the line.
It was found that less than 70 percent of the trains were arriving inRutlandon time. Those delays were found to be a result of “slow orders” issued by the rail company for safety reasons.
Amtrak claims those orders were the primary reason for delays along the Ethan Allen run despite the fact, Wulfson said, that the section of track ofVermontrail owns is only 25 miles.
Vermont Rail Systems has been working with Amtrak on improvement plans, and the current work is expected to greatly reduce the number of delays.
The Ethan Allen Express service does not stop inWhitehall, but instead passes through the community on its way to and fromRutland.
The Amtrak train that does stop inWhitehallis theAdirondackbut does not use the Vermont Rail tracks.
Wulfson said the company is hoping to make additional improvements in the future and are actively pursuing grant monies at the federal and state level.