Amtrak still derailed in the North Country, will return to Vermont
Passenger train service between New York City and Vermont is slated to resume later this summer, but North Country residents will have to wait.
Amtrak announced that its Ethan Allen Express line between New York City and Rutland, Vermont, will resume service starting July 19.
The line was shuttered at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with Amtrak’s Adirondack line between New York and Montreal.
All trains heading north from New York City currently stop at Albany, leaving North Country stations from Glens Falls to Rouses Point without passenger service.
Gary Prophet with the transit advocacy group Empire State Passenger Association applauded the planned return of daily service to Vermont but cautioned that rail service to the Adirondacks likely will not resume until the border between the U.S. and Canada reopens.
“Obviously the train cannot go to Montreal, and that was the largest station on that route. If the train can’t go to Montreal, that basically limits its ridership, and therefore it’s unlikely to come back until the border is open,” Prophet explained.
He predicted that trains would likely return to the Adirondack line within 60 days of the border opening.
There is currently no indication when such a resumption of non-commercial cross border traffic will resume. Canada restricted travel in March of 2020.
Prophet expects that passenger traffic on the Adirondack line will recover quickly once service resumes. He noted that ridership has already recovered substantially on the longer-distance, non-commuter lines that primarily serve recreational travelers catching a train from places like Western New York.
The recovery of more commuter-focused routes between New York City and Albany will depend upon the broader recovery of the New York metro area and how many workers return to offices.
Once the Ethan Allen Express resumes activity, Saratoga Springs will be the furthest north station in New York with service along the Lake Champlain corridor.
Chambers of Commerce on both sides of the lake applauded the return of normal service.
Catherine Davis with the Burlington-based Lake Champlain Chamber said Vermont’s lakeside rail lines are an important economic artery.
“All of our major highways are on the central to east side of the state,” she noted.
“Having that rail connection on the western side of the state is really important.”
That connection is set to improve. Amtrak has been working to extend the Ethan Allen line from Rutland to Burlington. That extension is set to be completed in 2022.
Davis predicted that connecting the majority of western Vermont to New York City and other markets in southern New England would be a boon to the local tourism industry, but also broader interstate commerce.
As an example she cited semiconductor manufacturer GlobalFoundaries, which has facilities in New York’s Capital Region and Northern Vermont.
Passengers can already book tickets for service between New York and Vermont on the Ethan Allen line for the July 19th resumption date.