Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in Vermont’

Amtrak Vermont Service to Resume July 19

April 9, 2021

Amtrak service to Vermont will resume on July 19.

The service has been suspended for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the trains suspended since March 26, 2020, are the Washington-St. Albans Vermonter and the New York-Rutland Ethan Allen Express.

The routes will be among the last of those suspended during the pandemic to resume service.

“We are very pleased to announce the restart of these vital transportation services for Vermonters and those who wish to travel to and from Vermont by train or bus,” Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn said in a statement.

 “With the Governor’s announcement this week of the Vermont Forward Plan to re-open Vermont fully during the next few months, we now have a target date for when we will be able to safely resume Amtrak and transit services.”

Amtrak Service Expansion Threatens Historic Depot

February 2, 2021

An Amtrak service expansion may result in the demolition of an historic railroad station in Vermont.

The station, which was built in the 1850s is located in New Haven, Vermont, and said to be too close to tracks that Amtrak would use to expand service to Burlington.

The station is owned by the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

Officials say the station posts a safety risk because of its proximity to the tracks.

The station is currently occupied by a construction company that has been told to vacate the building by June.

Moving the depot is seen as a long shot option because of its cost and the need to have it moved by fall.

However, an effort is apparently underway to raise money to save and move the station, which was constructed by the Rutland & Burlington Railroad.

The depot is believed to have been built between 1852 and 1853 although there is no evidence available to indicate the date of construction.

Amtrak May Return to Vermont Late This Year

September 17, 2020

A resumption of Amtrak service to Vermont is at least two to three months away, the state’s governor has indicated.

Gov. Phil Scott said state officials have discussed with Amtrak resuming operations of the Vermonter and Ethan Allen Express.

Once state officials decided to resume the service, it would be 30 days before the trains are operating.

Although the Amtrak website shows that tickets for travel on the Vermonter are available effective Oct. 8, similar sales were held for travel in July and September but the trains did not operate.

Vermont-funded Amtrak trains stopped running in March due to Scott’s stay home orders issued during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a news conference this week, Scott cited low ridership of public transportation throughout the state for holding resumption of Amtrak service in abeyance.

However, he said there were promising signs that travel could improve by the end of the year.

“I’ve heard that there’s some news [Amtrak] want to start coming back to Rutland first, maybe in the coming weeks, and we’re engaged with them to do whatever we can to provide for the service into Vermont when it’s safe,” Scott said.

Amtrak Trims More Service, Brightline Suspended

March 26, 2020

Additional Amtrak service reductions have been announced and Florida intercity rail passenger operator Brightline has suspended all service.

The latest Amtrak cancellations include reducing the level of service of Missouri River Runner service effective March 30

The two daily roundtrips between St. Louis and Kansas City will be cut to one with trains leaving Kansas City at 8:15 a.m. and St. Louis at 4 p.m.

The St. Louis-Kansas City corridor was the last in the Midwest to be unaffected by the COVID pandemic-induced service reductions.

Effective today Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has ordered all Amtrak in that state to be suspended.

The Vermonter, which normally operates between Washington and St. Albans, Vermont, will not operate north of New Haven, Connecticut.

On its reduced schedule, the Vermonter will not operate on Sundays.

The Ethan Allen Express, which normally operates between New York and Rutland, Vermont, will not operate north of Albany-Rensselaer, New York.

Scott said he took the action after consulting with Amtrak. He also issued a stay-at-home order for residents of his state and directed the closure of in-person, nonessential businesses in order to minimize unnecessary activities outside of homes.

In Florida, Brightline, which is owned by Virgin Trains USA, laid off 250 of its more than 300 South Florida workers this week.

Brightline said on Wednesday that it was suspending all service in the wake of the pandemic.

The layoffs included Bob O’Malley, vice president of corporate development.

In a statement, Brightline said it hoped to rehire most of its workers once service resumes, but said it could not say when that might be.

A report in the Miami Herald said more than 700 construction workers on a project to extend Brightline track to Orlando remain employed.

Equipment Storage Site in Burlington Remains Elusive

February 26, 2020

Vermont transportation officials continue to study where to store Amtrak equipment laying over in Burlington, Vermont, between runs.

Although Amtrak does not operate into Burlington now, the state has proposed extending the New York-Rutland, Vermont, Ethan Allen Express 68 miles north to Burlington.

Officials have looked at six options and appear to be favoring building a new siding near the McNeil Generating Station just west of Intervale Road or a new siding adjacent to Burlington Union Station.

Both options have drawn opposition, particularly the location next to the station.

Much of that has come from Main Street Landing, which owns property east of the railroad tracks.

MSL said noise and engine emissions from the train’s locomotive would be within 14 feet of apartments in the Wing Building south of the station.

Extending the Ethan Allen Express to Burlington would also bring service to Middlebury and Vergennes.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation wants to implement the extension by the end of 2021.

A decision on where to store the train overnight had been expected by late 2019, but has been delayed.

VTrans now doesn’t expect a decision to be made until late March.

“The state is giving the city more time to consider all of the options more thoroughly,” said city spokeswoman Olivia LaVecchia.

Other options for storing the train include the Vermont Rail System freight yard just south of the station, a rail spur in Burlington’s south end, and two sites in the city’s Urban Reserve, north of the station.

In the meantime, host railroad VRS plans to rebuild the track and work on signals on the mainline track at the station.

VRS leases from the right of way upon which is tracks are located between College Street in Burlington to Bennington.

The railroad has notified the city that it plans to terminate the city’s lease for the alignment of the Burlington Greenway bike path, which uses part of the right of way east of the mainline tracks.

VRS plans to realign the tracks to reduce a sharp curve south of the station.

If the equipment for the Ethan Allen is stored elsewhere other than by the station, VSR officials have indicated that it might not build a siding there that would house the train overnight.

The Ethan Allen equipment could also be taken 32 miles north of Burlington to St. Albans, Vermont, where the equipment for Amtrak’s Vermonter is stored overnight.

However, VTrans has indicated it wants to store the Ethan Allen equipment somewhere in Burlington.

VTrans is facing a late 2021 deadline to launch the Ethan Allen extension or facing having to return $10 million in federal funding it received for the extension of the route to Burlington.

Work Continues on Vermont Rail Line

January 22, 2020

A rail line between Rutland and Burlington, Vermont, is expected to be rebuilt for Amtrak service sometime within the next year say Vermont transportation officials.

They said that the track work is needed to extend Amtrak’s New York-Rutland Ethan Allen Express to Burlington.

The work involves 75 miles of rail and a new tunnel in downtown Middlebury.

The work has been underway for a few years and also involves grade crossing upgrades and new stations.

The Ethan Allen Express is funded by Vermont. Burlington has never been served directly by Amtrak although nearby St. Albans is the northern terminus of Amtrak’s Vermonter to and from New York.

Vt. City Wants More Info About Amtrak Expansion Plan

November 6, 2019

A plan to bring Amtrak to Burlington, Vermont, has hit a snag.

The city council is asking Vermont’s Agency of Transportation about plans to extend Amtrak service to Burlington after several residents expressed opposition to having the trains layover at Burlington Union Station.

Vermont officials are eyeing extending the state-funded Ethan Allen Express from its current northern terminus of Rutland, Vermont, to Burlington in 2021 or 2022.

The state transportation agency has proposed building a second track in front of the station between King and College streets that would be used to store the trainset overnight.

The 900-foot track has drawn objections from residents who contend storing the train at the station will bring additional noise and pollution, with some saying it would destroy their quality of life.

One person who spoke at a council meeting contended the location could become a railroad yard for host railroad Vermont Rail System.

He said once the siding is built “the railroad will do whatever it wants and we’ll be powerless to stop it.”

Some are also concerned that construction of the siding will displace an existing bike trail.

The council has expressed concern about the cost to replace it.

Brattleboro Hopes to See More Rail Service

April 5, 2019

Officials in Bratleboro, Vermont, are hoping that an extension of CTrail trains from Springfield to Greenfield, Massachusetts might be a sign of additional service to their city.

The trains will provide additional service in coordination with Amtrak between Greenfield and New York City.

Funding for the Greenfield service is being provided by Massachusetts on a two-year trial basis for $1 million. The trains are expected to draw 24,000 passengers a year.

Brattleboro is served by Amtrak’s Vermonter, which operates daily between St. Albans, Vermont, and Washington.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation, which provides funding for the Vermonter, is watching the Greenfield extension, but has no plans to seek an extension of that service to Battleboro, said Dan Delabruere, the agency’s rail program director.

“The issue of course is cost,” said state Rep. Mollie Burke, a member of the Vermont House of Representative’’s Committee on Transportation.

“Vermont pays Amtrak to run in Vermont, and it is all state money.” The state currently pays Amtrak $8.3 million for the Vermonter and Ethan Allen Express.
Burke said the state is considering providing bus service from Brattleboro to Greenfield that would connect with the CTrail trains to New York.

Some Vermont rail advocates would like to see not just additional rail service north of Greenfield, but a reinstatement of service to Montreal.

Burke said extending the Vermonter to Montreal won’t happen until the Canadian Province of Quebec funds track repair and a secure immigration facility is created in Montreal.

She noted that the U.S. and Canada reached an agreement to allow U.S. immigration officers on Canadian soil but the Vermont’s top passenger rail priority at the moment is extending the Ethan Allen Express north of Rutland, Vermont, to Burlington, Vermont.

“There is state money for improvements along the Western Corridor,” Burke said. “The only federal money we receive for rail comes from competitive grants and some Federal Highway Administration formula funds.”

Vermonters Still Wary Of Service Future

May 3, 2018

Although Vermont officials and rail passenger advocates are optimistic that Amtrak service to their state will survive, they are not taking that for granted.

Many in Vermont became alarmed after Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson told a congressional hearing in February that the passenger carrier would likely suspend service using routes that are not protected by positive train control.

Anderson was speaking about the prospect that some of its host railroads might not meet a Dec. 31, 2018, deadline set by federal law to install PTC.

However, the New York-Rutland Ethan Allen Express and Washington-St. Albans Vermonter use routes in the Green Mountain state that are not required to have PTC under federal law.

Both trains are funded in part by the State of Vermont.

Following Anderson’s comment an Amtrak government affairs manager tried to downplay the matter, suggesting that Vermont’s trains are likely to continue.

Amtrak is studying how and if to operate on route that are not required to have PTC.

However, of late Vermont officials have sound the alarm again because they say that Amtrak officials have been noncommittal in speaking about the future of the Vermont service.

They say Amtrak has not yet ruled out the possibility at the Vermonter and Ethan Allen Express will cease operating to Vermont on Jan. 1, 2019.

Another complication, Vermont officials say, is the prospect that a segment of the Vermonter’s route in Massachusetts may not meet administrative requirements that would reassure Amtrak of its safety.

The segment in question is 49 miles owned by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation that it purchased in 2014 from Pan Am Railways so that the Vermonter would reach a higher population base.

The resulted in rerouting the Vermonter from a route via Amherst to a route via Northhampton.

There are no plans at present to install PTC on that line.

There is little rail traffic on the route and the Federal Railroad Administration might be willing to grant it a waiver from the PTC requirement.

The Vermont Business Magazine said it had spoken with two sources who attended an April 16 meeting in Washington of the Rail Passenger Association, a national advocacy group.

During that meeting, Chris Jagodzinski, Amtrak’s vice president for operations, displayed a map indicating, in practice, the relative likelihood that Amtrak would cease serving certain route segments.

The sources said the 49-mile segment in Massachusetts is rated among the highest-risk routes because its lacks a PTC plan.

Vermont officials fear that Amtrak might refuse to run the Vermonter north of Springfield and instead carry passengers there by bus.

They also fear that once rail service is lost, it might be difficult to get it back.

A MassDOT spokesperson declined to comment on the PTC issue other than to make an innocuous statement in support of rail passenger service and referring specific questions to Amtrak.

Nonetheless, a source told the Vermont Business Magazine that MassDOT is working with the FRA, Amtrak and Pan Am to resolve the PTC issue, which the source said appears to be “solvable” by the PTC deadline.

An Amtrak spokesperson said the carrier is just now beginning to undertake a safety review of the Ethan Allen route and has yet to begin the review of the Vermonter route.

Federal law requires that if service is to be terminated by Amtrak, it must give 180 days notice. If service to Vermont is end or be suspended on Jan. 1, 2019, the notice would need to be given by July 5.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation and Genesee & Wyoming, which owns the tracks used by the Vermonter in Vermont are seeking a $1.6 million grant under the federal Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grant program that could be used to pay for safety equipment.

This could includes, for example, the installation of rock slide detectors.

“At this point the ball is in Amtrak’s court,” Michele Boomhower, director of policy planning and intermodal development at VTrans, said. “We have no time frame for anything changing, so we’re operating on a business-as-usual framework, awaiting Amtrak’s safety analysis.”

Ethan Allen Schedule to Change

March 12, 2018

Amtrak said in a service advisory that starting on April 7, Ethan Allen Express No. 292 will run 5 minutes later between Rutland and Albany. The passenger carrier said the 5 minute adjustment was being made to improve performance and help to decrease delays.