NY agrees to rail funding share
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | September 27,2013
New York state will offset the subsidies Vermont lost for the Ethan Allen Express under a new federal funding scheme for rail.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation announced Thursday that New York will pay $800,000 toward operating the passenger line between Rutland and New York City.
Vermont’s share will be $1.4 million. Chris Cole, AOT’s director of policy, planning and intermodal development, said each state’s share was determined by the rail miles on each side of the border.
The change was prompted by the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, which dropped the federal contribution to passenger lines less than 750 miles long from 25 percent to 15 percent, but allowed for cost-sharing between the two states.
Vermont’s share of the Ethan Allen has gone down under the deal, from $1.5 million, but Cole said those savings are more than offset by an increase of more than $2 million in costs to run the Vermonter line.
However, Cole said costs should come down as ridership on both lines is increasing, a trend he expects to continue as more high-speed rail goes in, shortening the trip and eventually carrying the Ethan Allen to Burlington.
“We’re anticipating when we’re able to operate the Ethan Allen at faster speeds, we’re going to be competitive with the automobile to New York City,” he said.
Cole said that once a $9 million federal grant announced earlier this year is spent, the state will only have 12 miles of rail to replace, at an estimated cost of $23 million, to get the train to Burlington.
Rep. Herb Russell, D-Rutland, a major booster of the Western Rail Corridor, said he thinks that will happen “very fast.”
“I think the governor and all those in places that can have an effect are very much behind this,” Russell said. “He sees this, as do I, as a piece that can improve the economic development culture of this side of the state.”
Russell said he expects the train will not just travel farther, but also more often.
“I really think, honestly, before all this is said and done, you’re going to see two trains a day, two round trips,” he said. “I just have that feeling.”