Vermont Rail open house to be held in South Burlington

Birds-eye view of the clear-cutting behind Harbour Industries to make way for Vermont Rail’s transfer station on Route 7 in Shelburne before the town put a stop to the project with legal action. Courtesy photo
Birds-eye view of the clear-cutting behind Harbour Industries to make way for Vermont Rail’s transfer station on Route 7 in Shelburne before the town put a stop to the project with legal action. Courtesy photo

Thursday, a Vermont Railway Intermodal Salt Facility Information Open House will be held from 6pm to 9pm at Sunset Ballroom Comfort Suites in South Burlington, as announced by Vermont Rail System President David Wulfson on Front Porch Forum. The post said Vermont Rail is hosting the event so the public can learn more about his plans for Shelburne.

Shelburne Selectboard focused on the topic on Feb. 9. Hundreds attended their meeting at the Shelburne Community School. The venue changed from the usual town offices to the school, and Shelburne police were on hand to direct traffic due to the large influx of residents interested in the subject of a new railroad transfer station in their town.

Vermont Rail System presented their project to the public Tuesday. Representatives of the Vermont Agency of Transportation, Agency of Natural Resources, Department of Environmental Conservation, the Nature Conservancy, Lewis Creek Association and others presented.

These public sessions came after Town Manager Joe Colangelo, the Selectboard, Wulfson and other rail representatives entered into an executive session on Feb. 2 to hash out differences behind closed doors.

Mainly, the town would like the ability to mitigate the worst of the environmental, traffic and other impacts the transfer station will bring. Colangelo said in a public Jan. 5 Selectboard meeting, “We simply have no idea what the impacts will be or what mitigation will help. It won’t be until this time next year that we will know the full impact.”

Wulfson has asked the Selectboard to trust him in place of their preferred impact studies, which caused the town to choose litigation to halt the project until some studies are conducted.

When asked about negative impacts to the Shelburne community as a result of the increased truck traffic at that initial meeting, Wulfson told the Selectboard he would deal with it when the time comes. “You’ll just have to take my word on that,” he said. “If there is anything we can do that does not adversely affect our project, we will do.”

But Wulfson told legislators in a Senate Finance Committee Meeting the last week of January, “The rail network as a whole is more important than any little town like Shelburne who thinks they can control what the railroad does. This is the perfect example of why preemption was created.”

That Senate Finance Committee Meeting was held in Montpelier to allow Wulfson to explain the situation on Shelburne.

In an email interview on Feb. 3, Vermont Agency of Transportation Secretary Chris Cole said, “VTrans’s role in this project is to evaluate the traffic that will be entering and exiting the facility to ensure that it does so safely and doesn’t create safety issues on the state highway or cause unreasonable congestion. We are currently undertaking that analysis.”

Without that analysis complete, Wulfson said in his recent letter to the town of Shelburne, “Despite what people are being told, there will be no increase in truck traffic traveling to the south through the village of Shelburne.”

Shelburne’s new transfer station will be built with state-of-the-art methods designed to control and mange stormwater, Wulfson said. And Vermont Rail has filed a stormwater plan for the facility and has applied for the required federal permit, he said.

He continued in the public letter, “While it might be difficult to understand, the fact is that this project is good for the environment.”

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