A new bi-state study of Vermont and New York by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is examining whether to keep the Ethan Allen Line that runs from Rutland, Vt. to New York City via Saratoga Springs, or cut it in favor of a line that would run through Mechanicville, and the Saratoga City Council is looking to find a way to keep the train on the track.
The council unanimously passed a resolution at a Tueday, Feb. 5, meeting urging the FRA to maintain the Ethan Allen Line, one of two passenger rail lines that go through the Spa City.
“I would be in favor of anything that serves our residents effectively and efficiently,” said Mayor Scott Johnson. “The loss of this line would be a huge economic impact for both tourists and residents.”
Johnson added the loss of the Etahn Allen Line would mean Saratoga would only have the Adirondack Line.
“Our focus here is to make sure we don’t lose half of the rail service to our station,” said Johnson.
The Adirondack Line, which originates in Montreal, Canada, is notoriously late, according to Johnson.
“It has to go through customs, and that takes time,” he said.
According to documents provided by Benjamin Turon, a member of the Empire State Passengers Association (ESPA) to the City Council, the federally funded Bi-State Intercity Passenger Rail Study was initiated to explore a cheaper way to bring rail service that “maximizes transportation efficiencies.”
The study is expected to be completed this year and will recommend one of three options. The study’s recommendations, however, could be rejected by FRA, but if one is accepted, the recommendation would make any project “shovel-ready” and for when funding becomes available.
The first option would be to do nothing but fix the tracks on the current Ethan Allen Line, which runs from Rutland to New York City via Fort Edward, Glens Falls and Saratoga Springs. This option is preferred by both Johnson and Tony Rudmann, the Director of Legislative Affairs at ESPA.
“The first option is best because it provides the most passenger service to the greatest public,” said Rudmann.
The second option would be to eliminate the current path of the Ethan Allen Line and shift it through Mechanicville, where it would continue on to Schenectady, Albany and eventually New York City.
The third option would maintain the current Ethan Allen Line while adding another line from Rutland to Bennington to Mechanicville. That would not change any of Saratoga Springs’ current service, but would involve millions of dollars in federal funding.
In order to ensure the continuation of the Ethan Allen Line through Saratoga, ESPA has been meeting with several state elected officials, including Senator Kathy Marchione and Senator Hugh Farley, who worked for a railroad when he was attending college.
“I did work for the New York Central in Watertown in my youth,” said Farley. “I am very supportive of rail transportation. I think it is the wave of the future and anything we can do to support passenger transportation, I am all for it.”
Whatever decision is made, Rudmann said Saratoga ridership is up.
“The public in the Saratoga and Fort Edward area should continue to have access to passenger rail,” said Rudmann.