by Jeff Smith
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AllEarth Rail moves on, to Montpelier Wednesday
Legislators will be offered a distinctive breakfast ambiance Wednesday when AllEarth Rail, the startup commuter-rail initiative spearheaded by clean-energy entrepreneur David Blittersdorf, hosts them on board a rehabbed railcar parked on the Washington County Railroad tracks adjacent to Taylor Street in Montpelier, a short stroll from the State House.
The event will mark a milestone of sorts for Blittersdorf's project, which is built around 12 vintage "Budd cars" that he acquired in early 2017 from Dallas Area Rapid Transit. The cars, which carry their own engines underneath the floorboards, need no locomotive – making them an economical alternative, in the view of some observers, for small commuter-rail operations such as Blittersdorf envisions for northwestern Vermont.
Moore and Blittersdorf, who owns AllEarth Rail's parent company, Williston-based AllEarth Renewables, will be making the case for launching a commuter-rail system to be centered on Burlington, with spokes extending to St Albans, Montpelier, Middlebury and possibly even Rutland. The car will remain open for the general public from 10:30 am until 2:30 pm.
Part of the initiative's logic is that private enterprise can find a leaner but equally effective solution to transit needs than the state can. A state-sponsored feasibility study released shortly before Blittersdorf bought the cars indicated that, for a Burlington-St Albans-Montpelier commuter service, an initial investment of $162 million-$189 million for cars and locomotives would be necessary.
Blittersdorf paid about $4 million for his set of cars and spare parts for them. They were hauled to Vermont in the summer of 2017 and have since made their home at the railroad shops in Barre, where the Bombardier Company once assembled cars for Amtrak.