Two recent Amtrak projects highlight the aid state departments of transportation are rendering to the national passenger railroad operator.
[Above photo by Amtrak]
In conjunction with the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, Amtrak recently completed Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA-related improvements to the Westerly Rail Station in Westerly, RI.
Those upgrades include two new elevators, an accessible pathway to and from the public right-of-way, two handicap-accessible parking spaces, and a sloped walkway for accessing the platform. Modified handrails and guardrails, along new ADA-compliant signs, are now also in place throughout the station.
Construction on those improvements began in March 2019, utilizing more than $9 million of federal funds that Amtrak receives from annual appropriations of Northeast Corridor and National Network federal grants for ADA compliance activities.
“Accessibility is an essential component of Amtrak’s commitment to improving the customer experience at our stations and on our trains, and we thank our partners at RIDOT for their collaboration at achieving this goal at Westerly Station,” noted David Handera, Amtrak’s vice president of stations, facilities, properties, and accessibility, in a statement.
“Due to the investment from our federal partners, Rhode Island train travelers, residents and visitors now get to experience the improvements Amtrak has made at Westerly Station,” he said.
“Westerly Station is an important part of our transit infrastructure,” added RIDOT Director Peter Alviti, Jr. “Just a few years ago we, the Town of Westerly, and the Artists Cooperative Gallery of Westerly, were able to breathe new life into this station and provide access to an indoor waiting area and restrooms while providing a unique community space for artists. These new improvements by Amtrak will make it easier for persons with disabilities to access this historic building.”
Since 2011, Amtrak said it has invested more than $489 million in accessibility upgrades at 204 stations throughout the country. In addition, Amtrak plans to spend more than $126 million in fiscal year 2022 on accessibility improvements at more than 43 additional stations. To date, Amtrak said it has made 168 stations ADA-compliant.
Meanwhile, in conjunction with the Vermont Agency of Transportation and the New York State Department of Transportation, Amtrak is now selling Ethan Allen Express tickets for daily travel between Burlington and New York City that begins July 29 – a route that includes new stops in Vergennes and Middlebury, VT.
“Passengers who want to experience the beauty, outdoor fun, and diverse offerings of Middlebury, Vergennes, and Burlington or travel to New York City can now do so sustainably, without being in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and while taking in some of the best views in the country via Amtrak,” said Amtrak President Roger Harris in a statement.
[Editor’s note: Harris became Amtrak president on July 5, with Gerhard “Gery” Williams promoted to executive vice president of service delivery & operations.]
“The extension of service to Burlington highlights the continued growth in demand for train travel throughout this country, and we are proud to meet this demand with our partners,” he noted.
In addition to Burlington, the new stops will also include the restored historic Ferrisburgh-Vergennes Station, which includes ample parking for Amtrak passengers, and the Middlebury Station, which consists of an impressive covered platform across the tracks from the historic Middlebury Station.
“Vermont has committed more than $115 million in state and federal resources, as well as decades of hard work by the Agency of Transportation and its partners, to complete this project,” emphasized Vermont Governor Phil Scott (R).
“I am very proud of our rail staff, planners, project managers, engineers, and Agency leadership, all of whose dedication to building the infrastructure necessary for Amtrak service between Burlington and New York City has made this important new service possible,” added Vermont Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn.
Those improvements reflect the vision for more state DOT involvement in Amtrak service expressed by Stephen Gardner, Amtrak’s CEO, during the luncheon keynote speech at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Council on Rail Transportation’s legislative meeting on in Washington, D.C., in February.
“Now we need to build much greater scale with the investment dollars we’ve been given, addressing decades of underinvestment,” Gardner pointed out. “We also must find the best ways to enable your vision for corridor growth – so we want to be a better partner for planning. Our vision is to improve on collaboration and responsiveness, adding capacity to support individual state objectives.”