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The Berkshires

City leaders oppose plan to re-route Ethan Allen rail line away from Saratoga

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Albany/HV: City leaders oppose plan to re-route Ethan Allen rail line away from Saratoga
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As federal government officials prepare to explore a plan to improve rail service between New York State and Vermont, Saratoga Springs city leaders want them to make sure it doesn't negatively impact the Spa City. YNN's Matt Hunter reports.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – While it may lack the hustle and bustle of the nearby Albany-Rensselaer station, the Saratoga Springs Rail Station has seen its ridership jump by nearly 25 percent in the past decade.

"It's up 9-point-something percent from a year ago,” Saratoga Springs Mayor Scott Johnson said Tuesday night.” “So certainly there's a need for it and a desire to have full service to our community."

With the need for local rail transit seemingly growing, Spa City leaders find themselves lobbying to keep the service in place.

The Vermont and New York State departments of transportation are currently conducting the New York-Vermont Bi-State Intercity Passenger Rail Study - two $117-million proposals to expand passenger rail between the two states.

One of the three proposals would re-route Amtrak's Ethan Allen line away from Saratoga Springs, sending it through Mechanicville and ultimately ending in Rutland.

"According to the study, ridership would fall by 25 percent [in Saratoga],” Benjamin Turon of the Empire State Passenger Association said. “That is something we don't want, especially here in Saratoga Springs."

The alternate proposals are to build an entirely new line from Albany to Rutland that runs through Mechanicville, or make no changes at all.

At Tuesday night's meeting, Saratoga Springs city counselors were given a presentation by Turon, whose group has no involvement in the proposed federal government project.

"We feel keeping the Ethan Allen and keeping the Adirondack where they are and having a new rail service to Mechanicville, Bennington and Manchester would be great, that's the best way to go," Turon said.

Fearing a drop in ridership would negatively impact the local economy, the city council unanimously passed a resolution against the option to re-route the Ethan Allen line away from Saratoga.

"It's not just a convenience issue in terms of the residents or visitors coming to our city, there's also an economic impact,” Mayor Johnson said. “Because every person that doesn't come to our city, they're not spending in our community, so we look at all of those factors."

The final call is up to the Federal Railroad Administration and Amtrak, which has set no timetable for its decision.

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