State: Sewer pipes under rail spur not a concern

Seen here a line of rail cars sit next to the road road switch location between Windcrest Road and Cold River Road in Rutland Town near the location of the manhole cover. (Robert Layman / Staff Photo)

The Rutland Town Select Board waited two months to hear assessments and proposed solutions for a train track that was built over a manhole cover and sewer line running from Rutland Town to Clarendon. But Peter Young, deputy general council for Vermont Railway Systems, said they’re still doing research. There are engineering plans that are being developed, and ongoing efforts to find a solution,” Young said. “We don’t see the level of imminent risk that Rutland Town seems to.” The 190-foot spur was installed south of Cold River Crossing three years ago and problems were only discovered last summer. Young said additional information about the spur is still being collected, but that building railroad spurs on top of ground covering other objects actually happens all the time. “Having pipes, wires and culverts crossing under tracks or a rail bed is not uncommon,” Young said. “We are still working on it, and research is still being done.” Agency of Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn said when the pipes were built, they were done so carefully and should be trusted. “If the waterline was constructed to specifications for building such lines under a railroad track, and we have no reason to believe they weren’t, it shouldn’t be a concern,” Flynn said. Flynn said there were options discussed between the two parties, one of which involved slightly elevating the spurs. “They would double-stack the ties so the rails would be off the ground, so the manhole cover could be opened if need be. We’re trying to bring the parties together,” Flynn said. “We’d like to see this work for everyone.” But three key Rutland players with backgrounds in engineering and municipal infrastructure think differently. “Our belief is that it’s made from a material that isn’t designed to support the weight that a train car would produce,” said Rutland Town Select Board chairman Josh Terenzini of the pipes. “Department of Public Works Commissioner Jeff Wennberg, Road Commissioner Byron Hathaway, and Rutland City engineer Jim Rotundo all agreed.” Terenzini said VRS Rutland manager Shane Filskov told him during a July 9 site meeting with local and state officials and legislators he would draw up some proposals and solutions for the rail spur problem. But then they never heard back from VRS. “He said ‘it shouldn’t take me more than a few weeks,” Terenzini said. “Now it’s two months later. They’ve taken very little interest in owning up to this mistake and caring about what this could potentially do to our community in terms of a negative financial impact.” If damaged, theoretically, the pipeline could threaten more than 50 different businesses including Diamond Run Mall, North Clarendon Industrial Park, Green Mountain Shopping Plaza, Rutland Regional Airport and the General Electric plant on Windcrest Road. Rutland Town Selectman Joe Denardo said the pipes underneath are made of a very vulnerable material. “The simplest solution is just move it south 300 feet,” Denardo said in May. “That old pipe is just like eggshells.” On May 30, the Rutland Town Select Board sent a letter to Gov. Phil Scott’s office, the Clarendon Select Board, the Rutland Economic Development Corp., Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce, Rutland City Board of Alderman, Mayor David Allaire, and 20 senators and representatives begging the assistance of the state in negotiating with the Agency of Transportation and Vermont Railway Systems, as their previous efforts had been “frustrating and slow” and said something needed to be done before the railroad did any damage to the pipeline. “It comes back to the fear and concern that if something catastrophic happened there, that line is critical to their business,” Terenzini said. “It’s quite obvious that the railroad doesn’t want to be a good partner and steward on this. The town has been ready and willing to work on this for over a year, but there continues to be this lack of communication and downright disrespect on the part of the railroad for everyone involved.”

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