On Monday, passenger train service is coming back to Vermont. The “Vermonter” will begin its first trip back in 15 months in St. Albans and make a stop in Essex Junction before continuing on to New York City.
But the train isn’t the only thing elected officials want back on track.
“It’s in very sad shape that whether you’re coming from Montreal or coming from New York, for thousands of people visiting the state, this is the first thing they see,” said George Tyler, Essex Junction Village Trustee.
Tyler was the former village president for 10 years. He was the first to suggest renovating the train station, a conversation that began back in 2011.
“I think this station was built in the 1950s and has never been reconstructed or renovated since,” said Tyler.
He and his colleagues have tried to address the chipped paint, graffiti, single bathroom and waiting room — the size of a bedroom. The station also lacks an ADA-compliant platform. Building a platform for passengers, especially those with disabilities, is a top priority.
“If someone is in a wheelchair, they have to pull out the lift, pack them onto this lift. It’s kind of humiliating for a person who is in a wheelchair,” said Tyler.
He says despite cooperation from Amtrak and the New England Central Railroad, they’re missing the proper funding. But Tyler hopes federal stimulus dollars can cover the costs. Last month, Senator Patrick Leahy asked for $3 million in Federal Transportation Spending for the Amtrak station.
“We’re not looking for extravagance, but we are looking for catching up with the times, and keeping people safe, even while they wait,” said former Essex resident John Guzzardi.
Another Vermonter says he remembers taking the train when he was young.
“It was really exciting for me, I was like five, and I remember we went on down to New York to visit my grandma,” said Essex Junction resident Erik Frivoll.
He says the return of the Vermonter could greatly benefit his hometown.
“We want to see a rebuild of the station, make it more passenger-friendly and have a nicer waiting area. And one that says this is a vital part of the community, not a rundown part of the community,” said Tyler.