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Lamoille Valley Rail Trail Wins America’s Transportation Award

JOHNSON, VT — Vermont’s Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, the longest rail trail in New England, has won the 2023 America’s Transportation Awards People’s Choice Award. This 93-mile multimodal trail links recreationists to 18 town centers and other trails throughout Vermont from St. Johnsbury to Swanton. It is open to walkers, bikers, equestrians, snowmobilers, and cross-country skiers alike, connecting them to historic towns, farms, hiking and snowmobile trails, and scenery across Vermont.

The trail corridor includes dozens of historic bridges and culverts. In Wolcott, the trail passes through the historic Fisher Covered Bridge, one of only a few former covered rail bridges still in use today. As a requirement of Vermont’s Division for Historic Preservation, this bridge’s deck was fitted with faux "rails” and stained “ties” to replicate its appearance prior to trail construction.

Maintained by the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans), the newly completed Lamoille Valley Rail Trail runs along a railbanked corridor stretching the width of the state of Vermont, connecting communities that were historically linked and serviced by train. The trail offers an economic benefit to these primarily rural, remote towns. Many have taken the trail’s establishment as an opportunity to add attractions to their communities, which both cater to the trail’s recreational tourists and have the potential to draw more people to live and work in these communities. Since the first sections of the trail opened in 2015, numerous bike shops, breweries, and eateries have sprung up along the corridor.

VHB has been involved in the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail for 15 years, helping VTrans and the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST) — the original sponsor of the project — to define, permit, and design the entire trail. Beginning in 2008, VHB conducted natural and cultural resource inventories and thorough reconnaissance of the entire trail before developing conceptual plans for all 93 miles.

After helping VAST and VTrans navigate a lengthy and complex permitting process, VHB completed final design and bid packages for the trail. Construction progress was initially slow due to insufficient funding, but in 2019, Vermont’s legislature and Governor Phil Scott approved funding to accelerate the project. Trail construction was substantially completed in the summer of 2023.

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To set up the trail for long-term success, VHB collaborated with VTrans over the last two years to develop a management plan for the trail, establishing strategies to support management, maintenance, operations, community connections, and economic development opportunities. VHB has also been supporting user experience for the trail, working with VTrans to develop a uniform approach to signage along the trail and adjacent trail connections.

VHB is now working with numerous towns on trailhead improvements, including informational kiosks, pavilions, restrooms, water fountains, bike repair stations, and signing enhancements that direct visitors to and from town centers. Plans for these improvements incorporate the community’s vision for the trailheads, which VHB is gathering through an extensive public engagement process.

America’s Transportation Awards are co-sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, AAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In this year’s competition, the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail competed against 80 other nominations from 36 states’ departments of transportation to win one of two awards. The prize for the People’s Choice Award was a $10,000 donation to a charity or transportation-related scholarship of VTrans’ choosing.

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