AP

Passenger rail return to Vermont city took vision, decades

Jul 29, 2022, 5:11 AM | Updated: 10:35 am

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — After a nearly 70-year absence, a passenger train running from Vermont’s revitalized Burlington train station to New York City headed south Friday as part of a nationwide renewal of interest in rail travel.

Last November, President Joe Biden, who famously rode Amtrak between Washington and his Delaware home during his 36 years in the Senate, signed legislation that includes $102 billion for passenger and freight rail investment that will help Amtrak improve and expand its services over time.

Among the projects that will be funded with the help of the rail infrastructure money is a a planned $11 billion train tunnel under the Hudson River linking New Jersey and New York.

Vermont’s new Burlington rail expansion caps a nearly 30-year-long effort that saw about $117 million spent on rail infrastructure and comes a year after Amtrak, on its 50th anniversary as the nation’s passenger rail service, announced a $75 billion, 15-year-plan to expand passenger rail around the country.

“With the price of gas, we just jump on the train, sit back and relax and don’t have to worry about it,” said Justin Kratz, who was boarding the Vermont train Friday headed home to Philadelphia.

The new service ran into some early hiccups when passengers were forced to get off the train and take a bus for the portion of the trip in upstate New York between Saratoga Springs and Albany, said Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams.

The track in Albany runs by an old warehouse with a wall in danger of collapsing, and Amtrak is avoiding that stretch out of safety concerns. The issue is causing service disruptions on other Amtrak lines. Abrams could not say how long the track in Albany would be closed.

Amtrak, which now serves 46 states, has recently been restoring service that was disrupted by the pandemic and adding service in other parts of the country, including New England, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Jim Mathews, president of the Rail Passengers Association — an organization working to expand and improve passenger service — said the goal of expanding passenger rail has been around for decades but has seen a boost more recently.

“I know in some quarters that might sound a bit corny, but we have advocates in our coalition who have literally spent their entire lives dedicated to advancing these arguments,” Mathews said in an email. “When the tide began to turn in 2017, it was in part because of this slow buildup of support and evidence that this is good public policy.”

Mathews said his organization has conducted studies that show the benefits of passenger rail, including that it produces gains across the board in jobs, incomes, business-to-business transactions and even local and state tax revenues.

“We have also been able to show Congress going back to 2017 how important passenger rail is for the disabled and the marginalized, for whom trains in many cases are the only form of public transportation available,” he said. “We have also been able to show compelling environmental benefits, as an exceptionally green way to travel.”

Vermont State Sen. Dick Mazza, the longtime chair of the Senate Transportation Committee who worked for years to help bring passenger rail back to Burlington, said it has been an unexpectedly long process to accomplish the bipartisan vision of bringing passenger rail to the state’s largest city, which has a population of about 45,000.

“We said, ‘Well, you know, it’s a long road, but someday it’s going to make a lot of sense for Burlington to New York City,’ not knowing what 20 years later would bring,” he said.

The new Burlington service is an extension of the Ethan Allen Express, which has run between New York City and Rutland since the mid-1990s.

It was around that time, shortly after Amtrak started serving Rutland, that the state — boosted largely by former Gov. Howard Dean, his administration, its successors and the congressional delegation — began applying for a series of federal grants needed to upgrade the rails and other infrastructure, such as rail crossings and stations. The state money that was kicked in over the intervening years enabled the entire stretch to be brought up to passenger rail standards.

Dean was ridiculed by some for his support of rail, and he had to overcome some local opposition. Today, he says he’s happy to leave his car at home in Burlington and ride the train to see his grandchildren in Philadelphia, changing trains in New York.

“You don’t want to use a car in a big city if you can help it,” Dean said. “There is no garage, no driving, no hassle, no rude people.”

The 7 1/2 hour trip between Burlington and New York will be about two hours longer than driving. The top speed between Burlington and Rutland will be 59 miles per hour (94.95 kph), but that could be increased with future technology upgrades.

___

This story has been corrected to reflect correct quotation from passenger.

___

Associated Press reporter Lisa Rathke contributed to this report from Burlington, Vermont.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

American Airlines put an unspecified number of employees on leave for their involvement in an incid...

Associated Press

American Airlines CEO calls removal of Black passengers from Phoenix flight ‘unacceptable’

American Airlines put an unspecified number of employees on leave for their involvement in an incident in which several Black passengers were removed from a flight in Phoenix.

16 hours ago

FILE - Crystal Baziel holds the Pan-African flag Monday, June 19, 2023, during Reedy Chapel A.M.E C...

Associated Press

The beginner’s guide to celebrating Juneteenth

For more than one-and-a-half centuries, the Juneteenth holiday has been sacred to many Black communities. It marks the day in 1865 enslaved people in Galveston, Texas found out they had been freed — after the end of the Civil War, and two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Since it was designated a federal […]

2 days ago

A Boeing 737 Max suffered damage to parts of the plane's structure after it went into a “Dutch ro...

Associated Press

Plane that did ‘Dutch roll’ on flight from Phoenix suffered structural damage, investigators say

A Boeing 737 Max suffered damage to parts of the plane's structure after it went into a “Dutch roll” during a flight from Phoenix last month.

7 days ago

This photo provided by Randy Shannon shows Mooney Falls on the Havasupai reservation outside the vi...

Associated Press

Dozens report illness after trips to waterfalls near Grand Canyon

Dozens of hikers say they fell ill during trips to a popular Arizona tourist destination that features towering blue-green waterfalls deep in a gorge neighboring Grand Canyon National Park.

8 days ago

Mugshot of Rudy Giuliani, who was processed Monday, June 10, 2024, in the Arizona fake electors cas...

Associated Press

Rudy Giuliani posts $10K cash bond after being processed in Arizona fake electors case

Rudy Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and Donald Trump attorney, was processed Monday in the Arizona fake electors case.

10 days ago

FILE - White House former chief of staff Mark Meadows speaks with reporters at the White House, Wed...

Associated Press

Former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows pleads not guilty in Arizona fake elector case

Former Donald Trump presidential chief of staff Mark Meadows and Trump 2020 Election Day operations director Michael Roman pleaded not guilty Friday in Phoenix to nine felony charges for their roles in an effort to overturn Trump's Arizona election loss to Joe Biden.

14 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

Passenger rail return to Vermont city took vision, decades