A new era in transportation for Vermont launched Friday, which Sen. Bernie Sanders, an Independent, labeled “an important and historic day.” After nearly 70 years, Vermont’s most populous community once again has passenger rail service to and from New York City.
The newly-expanded Ethan Allen Express connects downtown Burlington and Penn Station.
"Anything beats air travel right now," said Susan Zinger, a passenger on Friday’s inaugural service on the restored Burlington-to-New York City route. "When they said there hadn’t been a train into Burlington since 1953, I went, 'Wow, that was before I was born,' and now look at me—I’m retired!"
Secretary Joe Flynn, who leads the Vermont Agency of Transportation, said restoring service took decades of prep work, and more than $115 million in corridor investments — using mostly federal funds.
"I think it makes Burlington more complete," Flynn said in an interview with NECN & NBC10 Boston. "I really do."
Amtrak’s CEO, Stephen Gardner, said he is seeing interest in rail travel rebound to near pre-pandemic levels.
More travel news
Get New England news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NECN newsletters.
"If today is a good indication, we’re going to have a successful service," Gardner said. "Where we’ve launched some new services recently elsewhere, ridership has been very robust, so we’re bullish."
It’s about a 7.5-hour trip from Burlington to the Big Apple. Tickets are $75 each way, with a daily departure and arrival.
In Middlebury, a college town where the train now stops, leaders expect strong ridership on the extended route. Town manager Kathleen Ramsay said Middlebury is planning new ways of promoting the community.
“It’s such an opportunity, both for us to connect with New York City, but for New York City and other southern destinations to connect with us,” Ramsay said of the expansion of the Ethan Allen Express.
While Sen. Sanders said addressing climate change will take progress on many different fronts, he noted that if more people embraced mass transit, it could help Vermont with its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by getting away from gasoline-fueled cars.
Vermonters could still see further expansions of rail travel options. For years, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, has been working on measures that could help service get extended north across the Canadian border to Montreal. He’s pledging to keep pushing for that in his final months in the U.S. Senate, a spokesman said Friday.