The Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) and the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), in cooperation with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), are working together to identify and establish intercity passenger rail service to parts of southwestern Vermont and adjacent areas in New York that are currently underserved, and have scheduled the first public meeting to discuss the study for Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 7:00pm-9:00pm at the Bennington Fire Station, 130 River Street, Bennington, VT, 05201.The project study area, which is generally located between Albany/Rensselaer, NY and Rutland, VT, includes Bennington and Rutland Counties in Vermont, and Rensselaer, Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties in New York.Passenger rail is a vital and integrated component of both the Vermont and New York multimodal transportation systems. Both states have developed state rail plans to provide a strategic policy framework for maintaining and enhancing their respective rail systems.‘Governor Peter Shumlin is committed to seeing passenger rail grow in Vermont,’ noted Brian Searles, Secretary of VTrans. ‘We are pleased to be working with in partnership with New York to implement the shared vision of delivering passenger rail along the western corridor of Vermont, and connecting to Albany and New York City.’‘Expanding high speed intercity passenger rail service is a priority for Governor Andrew Cuomo as it will increase mobility, create jobs and support economic growth and tourism,’ NYSDOT Commissioner Joan McDonald said. ‘We look forward to working cooperatively with the State of Vermont to create passenger rail improvements that will effectively serve us and future generations and we encourage the public to participate in the upcoming meeting to help us develop a system that is responsive to its needs.”VTrans and NYSDOT also are working together on another significant transportation project, replacement of the Lake Champlain Bridge, which spans the state line between Crown Point, Essex County, New York and Chimney Point, Vermont. The previous bridge was demolished in late December 2009. A new bridge is scheduled to be opened at the site this fall.The New York-Vermont Bi-State Intercity Passenger Rail Study is funded by a $500,000 FRA grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (2009). Both states are contributing $250,000 each towards the cost of the study.The desired study outcome is to develop a preferred transportation alternative that will continue forward into design and construction. The study will include the following major steps:§ Identify and evaluate reasonable intercity passenger rail service alternatives;§ Complete Federal environmental documentation and reviews;§ Develop preliminary engineering materials; and§ Develop an implementation plan to identify the management approach and financial plan for the proposed service. A public meeting scheduled for March 22. The study is scheduled to be completed by summer 2012.Public involvement is essential for the development and implementation of the planning study. Over the course of the next 18 months, a series of public meetings will be held in both Vermont and New York to gather public opinion on passenger rail service options.