Amtrak’s Ethan Allen Express makes maiden voyage to NYC
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont’s new Amtrak route, the Ethan Allen Express, made its maiden voyage from Burlington to New York City Friday. After a 70-year pause, the service now offers new options to travelers.
A decades-old project to return rail service between the Queen City and New York City reached the end of the line Friday morning. Amtrak’s Ethan Allen Express now extends north from Rutland, making stops in Middlebury, Vergennes, and Burlington’s Union Station, providing Vermonters with another way to ride the rails.
“I think it’s gonna be great for us. My daughter will be able to come home and visit more,” said Jennifer Hatch of Ferrisburgh, who hopped on board for a trip to the Big Apple. “Driving into the city is, you know, then you have to park your car. So, this is great. We take the train right into Penn Station.”
Some train enthusiasts on board made the trip to Burlington just to be a part of the special day. “There’s been a lot of talk for Amtrak expanding. Just to see it actually happening is a big deal. Coming to see all the people who turned out for it is really nice,” said Jonah Turner, a visitor from Atlanta.
And Burlington residents riding to NYC say they’re glad to have this option in their backyard. “I have family and friends in New York City. I look forward to visiting much more often,” said Ben Gorbach.
The trip is just under eight hours and costs around $75 for a one-way ticket. The train will depart from Burlington every day at 10:10 a.m. and arrive at 5:45 p.m. The northbound service leaves Penn Station at 2 p.m. and arrives in Burlington around 10:00 pm.
Burlington officials say they expect the train to bring more visitors and boost the city’s economy at a vital time. “Today must both be a celebration in progress and an inspiration to further investment in innovation and transformation in the years ahead,” said Burlington mayor Miro Weinberger.
To make it all possible, the state contributed over $100 million to upgrade tracks and build new stations and platforms. “I do think it’s worth it to bring more people into the state, getting them transportation from our largest city to the largest city in the world is important so we can attract more people,” said Gov. Phil Scott.
And those hopping on board say they expect to make lots of trips in the years to come.
UNSTABLE UPSTATE NY BUILDING INTERRUPTS SOME AMTRAK SERVICE
Friday’s inaugural trip did not come off without a hitch. Amtrak says passengers traveling both ways were rerouted due to safety concerns related to a privately owned warehouse in “imminent “ danger of collapsing near the tracks in Albany. Amtrak will bus affected travelers between Albany and Saratoga Springs. Officials could not say how long the stretch of track would be off limits to trains.
VTRANS SAYS NEW ROUTE ANTICIPATED BY MANY
Dan Delabruere, VTrans’ Rail and Aviation Bureau director, says the Ethan Allen extension has been something people have been asking to have. “We get inquiries about the train from almost every walk of life,” said Delabruere. “There’s a lot of people that love trains and those people are very excited. There are a lot of people that want to go to New York City but don’t drive a car. There are college students that don’t have a car. There are all those types of folks that have really been asking the question, when can we get the train? And we’re happy to deliver that to Burlington, Middlebury, and Vergennes.”
The Amtrak “Vermonter” already runs from Vermont to New York City but the closest it comes to Burlington is Essex Junction. Plans are to eventually extend that service to Montreal.
“And will they compete? Well, there are actually there are two frequencies. So, I think they might compete a bit but I don’t think it’ll be an issue for the train. I actually think it’s an advantage to Vermonters,” said Delabruere. He says there are signs railroad travel is making a comeback. “Our ridership on both of our trains have increased steadily over the last four to five years,.. So, we’re showing very high interest in our trains. We do seem to get a spike when the gas price goes up. So, there’s that. Holiday travel is always big for us. So, we have spikes then, but generally year-round, our ridership has increased steadily over the last several years.”
Delabruere says they’ll do a monthly check-in to see how ridership is going and adjust campaigns to promote the train based on its popularity.
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