A trail that will cross Vermont is expected to be complete by the end of the year and open in 2023.
Joel Perrigo of the Vermont Agency of Transportation told lawmakers this week that contractors have been selected to complete the 93-mile Lamoille Valley Rail Trail. It will link Swanton and St. Johnsbury.
Large portions of the trail have been open for several years. The remaining sections will be complete by fall and signs installed in 2023, according to the Associated Press.
The idea for the trail began in the 1990s when the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST) launched plans to create a trail along a former rail line that had operated since the late 1800s and stopped running in the 1980s.
VAST spent years and millions of dollars developing the trail, but the state took over operations in 2018. It set aside $2.8 million in 2020 to finish the project, and the federal government chipped in $11.3 million.
VAST is grateful the project will reach the vision it imagined when it started the trail.
“We are pleased to enter into this new phase of our relationship with the state, which will significantly speed up the timeline for completing this project,” Cindy Locke, executive director for the association, said in 2020 when the funding was secured, according to the Burlington Free Press.
“We are extremely grateful to VAST members, the individual donors and private foundations who have made it possible for us to complete the initial miles of the trail, and we look forward to the coming progress,” Locke said.
With the announcement that the trail’s completion is in sight, Locke expressed gratitude to lawmakers.
“The Lamoille Valley Rail Trail for us is a child that we’ve raised and we’re sending off to college, and so we’re not just letting that kid go,” Locke said. “We’re not changing their room. Their room’s going to be here in case they have to come back home.”
Swanton is located on the western border of the state, while St. Johnsbury is on the lower eastern border.
State officials expect annual maintenance costs on the trail to be about $350,000.