BF train station

Rockingham Development Director Gary Fox looks over the inside of the Bellows Falls Train Station in July 2021.

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BELLOWS FALLS — The pile of state and federal grants coming in to pay for the $4.1 million project renovating the 1923 Bellows Falls train station continues to grow.

The Northern Border Regional Commission announced Thursday that Rockingham received $350,000 in the second round of grants the group issued in the past month, designed to support economic development and infrastructure projects in northern New England.

Most of the projects in the second round of funding involved municipal water projects, with the only other Vermont project going to Rutland.

The Greater Rockingham Area Services, the owner of the health center building in Bellows Falls, had received a $817,000 Northern Border grant last month in the first round to help pay for a new wood-fired heating system for the old hospital building.

Richard Grogan, executive director of the Northern Border Regional Commission, a New England-wise organization based in Concord, N.H., said Friday that Rockingham’s project was graded well by the Vermont evaluators. He said the first round of Northern Border grants, which came out in August, did not include the train station, but that a different source of funding was used for the train station grant.

Rockingham’s grant will be used to help purchase the train station, and do some of the long-term repairs needed on the almost 100-year-old station.

The town of Rockingham voted overwhelmingly in March to purchase the train station, and appropriated $75,000 toward the overall project.

Rockingham Development Director Gary Fox is putting together the complex project that involves a variety of funding sources and five different government agencies.

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Fox said Friday that the town has negotiated with the railroad to complete the purchase and sale agreement for the station, as well as a companion lease with the Vermont Agency of Transportation for the land under the station.

But before the sale can be completed, he said, the town needs to receive the completed National Environmental Policy Act review, which will evaluate the environmental effects of the project, including whether it would have any effect on endangered species, or the Connecticut River.

The town of Rockingham is lined up to purchase the train station, which is still being used for the Amtrak Vermont station, as well as the local Greyhound bus stop.

Fox said the $350,000 won’t be released by the federal agency until the NEPA review is completed. He said the money would be used for repairs to the train station’s bulkhead, which is collapsed, as well as addressing asbestos contamination in the station. The funds will also pay for the restoration of the historic windows in the station. The town had originally proposed modern windows.

The funds will allow the town to restore the original canopies on the train station, which replaced an earlier station that burned.

The train station project is part of a national and regional move to rebuild the rail infrastructure, and he said the state is working to repair train stations along the Amtrak lines, including the station in Brattleboro. He said the Bellows Falls station is in the middle of the stations in terms of passengers.

Earlier this year, the town received a $200,000 Vermont downtown redevelopment grant from the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. And the town has requested a $1.8 million earmark from Congress from the U.S. Department of Transportation transit infrastructure grant. Currently, Fox said, the town is waiting to hear if it receives a $50,000 planning grant.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com.