Amtrak Vermonter service gets back on track

Published: Jul. 19, 2021 at 5:58 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 19, 2021 at 7:07 PM EDT
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ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) - It’s back! After shutting down in March 2020 due to the pandemic, the Amtrak Vermonter train is back on track.

“I am so excited I get to go see my granddaughter for the very first time. She was born in April and I haven’t been able to get there,” said Debra Mosher, a passenger.

A sold-out Vermonter train rolled into Essex Junction Monday morning, signaling another step in the return to normal.

“We are traveling down to New York City. We were here visiting some friends in Vermont and discovered that we were going to be right on time for the inaugural Vermonter,” said Bob Haase, a passenger.

Passengers of all ages climbed aboard, ready to ride the rails.

“We were just trying to find a good stop I think for a fun hour train ride today. It’s the first one in Vermont since we got here, kind of our first-year anniversary train ride,” said Tobias Schroeter, a passenger.

Among the passengers, Vermont Lt. Gov. Molly Gray.

“I just jumped on in St. Albans, we started the day up there. I just wanted to say it was incredible to be on the train. It’s incredible to have Amtrak back in service,” said Gray, D-Vermont.

With transportation halted and then restricted during the pandemic, Amtrak reports a 15.2-million passenger decrease and an $800 million loss.

However, since 2016, Amtrak data says ridership across the entire system, including Vermont, had increased each year until COVID-19.

As the service hopes for a pandemic bounce back, local stops are hoping to see an economic boost as well, as passengers disembark and head into town.

“Walkable communities are the future of Vermont and the U.S. Walkable communities are safe, they increase property values and they create all of the cafes, restaurants,” said Brian Shelden of the Essex Economic Development Commission.

And that’s something developers say many can get on board with.

Essex Junction is actually the station with the largest capacity for passengers throughout the whole state. Many officials say for that reason, it’s time for a face-lift. They say the station is in need of a little TLC.

The state of the Essex Junction station was a hot topic at Monday’s news briefing following the send-off of the first train.

The village of Essex Junction has requested $3 million in federal funding to give it a face-lift.

Village president Andrew Brown says the repairs are " a dire need.”

“If you imagine for a moment, this train station sees about 200-250 people when the students come back to college. Imagine coming from the southern part of the state and beyond, coming into the station needing to use the restroom or being in the middle of the dark and seeing this welcoming you,” Brown said.

While renovations have not yet begun, Brown says the federal money for the project is on Sen. Patrick Leahy’s shortlist.

However, there is no official timeline in place as of yet.

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Amtrak returns to Vermont Monday

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