The 55 Vermonter, St. Albans, 1-7-2019

The 55 Vermonter idles near a roundhouse in St. Albans before a daily run to Washington, D.C., in 2019. The Vermonter’s stops in the Green Mountain State have been on hold due to COVID-19.

MONTPELIER — After a year without service, Amtrak’s Vermonter and Ethan Allen lines may be back up and running in the next couple of months, according to Gov. Phil Scott.

“We’ve had some preliminary discussions with Amtrak on this and we had said that we’re looking forward to them coming back and being fully operational,” Scott said during a press conference Tuesday updating the public on the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Scott, Amtrak officials have informed the state that the Vermonter line, which runs from Washington D.C. through St. Albans, and the Ethan Allen line may be back online in the next couple of months.

“We just don’t know exactly when it’s going to be,” Scott said.

Rail lines in Vermont have been closed down since the initial shutdown due to the pandemic in March 2020. As of fall 2020, Amtrak had been running lines through New York City, Massachusetts and Maine.

According to statistics from Amtrak, the St. Albans station saw 3,726 boardings and arrivals in fiscal year 2018. This dropped down to 1,735 in fiscal year 2020, which saw ticket revenue of $111,529, according to data on the Great American Stations website, which is presented by Amtrak.

The Essex Junction location also saw a dip, from 20,649 boardings and arrivals in fiscal year 2018 to 11,070 in fiscal year 2020, which saw $751,950 in ticket revenue.

“Restart of Amtrak discussions are underway at the state level and with Amtrak,” said Amy Tatko, public outreach manager for the Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT), in an email to the Messenger Tuesday. “We hope to make an announcement within the next several weeks as to what that timeline will look like.”

Scott said Amtrak has been operating trains on the line to train new staff for a return to service.

“It’s just been a training timeline that is preventing us from going back to having transit for the general public,” Scott said.

In the event the Amtrak lines were to resume service, Scott said the state’s guidance may likely mimic that of other public transport services, including masking up and maintaining social distancing guidelines.

According to Amtrak, the organization has partnered with George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health to implement safety guidelines. These include required face coverings, enhanced cleaning protocols, physical distancing measures, contact-free online services and limited bookings.

Amtrak officials deferred questions about service to the Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT). 

This article was updated at 12:51 p.m. March 25 to include remarks from the AOT. 

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