Amtrak may face cuts

12/04/08 5:46PM By John Dillon

AP Photo/A. Pellett
(Host) As the state Transportation Agency cuts its budget, officials may be forced to reduce passenger rail service in Vermont.

The state provides a $5 million subsidy to operate two Amtrak lines in Vermont. The Ethan Allen Express runs from Rutland to New York City, and the Vermonter goes from St. Albans to Washington, D.C.

The trains are a success story. Ridership has increased on both routes. And VTrans spokesman John Zicconi says officials are reluctant to cut the service.

(Zicconi) "Right now I'm not even saying Amtrak will be cut. It's being considered like everything else is being considered. We don't want to cut Amtrak. It's a service who's growing. People are trying to get out of their single occupancy vehicles. Amtrak is a popular service that everybody likes. But in tough times even those programs have to at least be looked at to understand how they fit into the greater picture our priorities."

(Host) Zicconi said the agency faces a $21 million deficit that could grow even larger if revenues continue to decline. Many agency projects are supported with a combination of federal and state funds. But the Amtrak subsidy is entirely state dollars.

(Zicconi) "There is no federal participation for rail service. So as a result rail is always a target when you're looking for all state money."

(Host) The state is considering different ways to reduce what it spends on passenger rail. One possibility is to eliminate one of the two routes. Or the state could shorten the Vermonter service so it ends in White River Junction. That would cut stops in the northern half of the state.

AP Photo/Alden Pellett

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