Spurred by pressure from Rutland area rail advocates, the Vermont Legislature's Joint Fiscal Committee today unanimously rejected VTran’s proposed elimination of Rutland’s Ethan Allen train.
Representative Richard Westman, who is also chair of the Joint Transportation Committee, voiced concerns that the proposal “represented a huge policy change for the region” and thus the committee would find it “difficult to proceed.” The committee felt this action needed to be held and a decision made when the full legislature returns to session.
Other highway budget cuts proposed by VTrans were accepted after the Amtrak and local road funding cuts were removed.
Members of the Joint Fiscal Committee mentioned that they had heard from “dozens” of Rutland area residents and business leaders as well as Rutland delegation members.
The excellent leadership of David Allaire and Tom Donahue played a lead roll in organizing the effort to save the service. Former Representative Allaire is on the Vermont Rail Action Network board, the Vermont Rail Council, the Rutland Regional Transportation Commission and is President of the Rutland Board of Alderman Donahue is Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce Executive Director. They and the Rutland Economic Development Corporation have been working together for some time on rail issues, most recently on advancing the design of the Rutland rail-yard.
VTrans had tried to position the cuts as an improvement, offering a bus which would run from Burlington to Bennington serving Middlebury, Rutland and Manchester (“not cancel, but convert” said Transportation Secretary David Dill). Rail advocates would have none of it. A bus is not a train!
While this is a small victory, VTrans will be returning to the legislature with further cuts in January including Amtrak service according to Secretary Dill. Delaying the decision on the train until January, he said, would reduce the budget savings from $400,000 to $300,000.
Your continued communication with your elected officials will keep the pressure up to keep Amtrak off the list of cuts, or help convince the legislature to put it back in the budget if necessary.
Once the trains are cut, it becomes much more difficult to ever get them back. Track will deteriorate and reassigned equipment will no longer be available.
Click here to link to your Vermont State Legislator's office and contact them!