93 Miles Of Bikes & Bridges

NORTHEAST KINGDOM-Vermont's 93-Mile Lamoille Valley Rail Trail is part of many Northern Vermont's biggest attractions! Although many people enjoy the trails all year round, not everything on the trail is completed and ready for the uptick in tourism. The project, which started in 2005-2006, was initially funded by Washington. 

"There was an earmark that came down through congress about five and a half to six million dollars. Which is what the estimate was to complete the 93-miles at the time," Joel Perrigo, Assistance Program Manager for the project explained. 

A number of organizations wanted to help push this project into the Northeast Kingdom, most notably, the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers(VAST), who decided to take on the project. "So they administered the funds from that time frame, up until last year," Perrigo explained. With help from VAST, they completed thirty miles of the trail, as well as repairing four bridges!

Despite the progress made with the help from VAST, the organization's time frame to complete the trail was not what the state of Vermont had in mind. "The course that they were running, it was going to be about a fifteen year project," Perrigo said. Perrigo explained that even though VAST wanted to continue funding the project, they were looking for help to complete the rail trail through the NEK.

"I think they were looking for more financial help, more than anything," Perrigo said. Perrigo goes on to explain that even though it was a big project, the economic impact that the rail trail has brought to Vermont was an important aspect in finishing the trail. "This trail is such a resource, the economic development that was popping up along the trail was crucial."

While part of the trail is in downtown Morristown with all its restaurants, shops, and downtown housing, more towns wanted the opportunity to be a part of the projects with large economic impact. "The Governor acknowledged that, and last year put forth the recommendation that over the course of the next two fiscal years, the state makes the match to the federal funding to get this project completed."

"People love the rail trail," Tricia Follert, a Morristown resident shared. Follert explained that so many people have moved into the area since that part of the trail has emerged. "It's not just for bikers, it's for walkers, snowmobiles, families, there's even little picnic areas for people to sit." Follert also explains that the town has been seeing more money come in. As people use the rail trail, they stop in town for a bite to eat!

Perrigo says that the project now has fifteen million dollars behind it, to help complete the rest of the trail. "We have some bridges that are missing, some of them are gone, some have been removed. Due to the fact that some of them are a safety hazard," Perrigo said. 

The Vermont Agency Of Transportation will be putting forth construction bids in order to finish the projects. "We have to advertise all of our construction bids because we deal with public funding that comes through federal highway. It comes to V-Trans and and everything is done by a low bid, seal process. So we are advancing right now for a bridge only contrac," Perrigo explained. The Agency is working on getting six bridges under construction, as well as finishing part of the trail from Highgate to Sheldon. Due to that portion of the project being put on hold through the winter, that construction will commence and be completed in June of 2021.

"There are three major segments that remain. After the project that is under construction is finished, we need to finish Sheldon Junction to Cambridge, Morristown to Hardwick, then Hardwick to Danville," explained Perrigo. This work should be completed by the end of summer 2022, the  Agency of Transportation is very confident that everyone involved will be able to finish the 93 mile rail trail in the expected time frame.