Letter: Train station needs a master plan
The Brattleboro Amtrak Station needs a master plan to increase museum visitors and Amtrak riders.
The Amtrak station is currently a cramped, unattractive space on the bottom of the historic station, home to the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center. The station and its platform are not in compliance with the Americans for Disability Act (ADA). The building's back wall is a scary place, and the space between building and tracks needs major work. Amtrak signs need to be placed on I-91 and leading to the station. The Museum should better promote its connections to the historic station.
The need for critical improvements have received keen interest from the Department of Justice and Amtrak because they want the ADA issues fixed. Several stakeholders are working on these issues. Brattleboro has proposed $250,000 in its 2020 budget to address these issues. The Museum wants to spend $2 million on improvements (Reformer, Dec 5).
The economic importance of Vermont's rail stations was dramatically highlighted earlier this year. Amtrak's president, Richard Anderson, suggested that Amtrak might stop serving rail lines not in compliance with Positive Train Control (PTC), even though Congress had exempted such lightly used lines. Vermont's politicians mounted a furious response because such a change would eliminate all Vermont's passenger service, including at Brattleboro. One main argument was the disastrous effect on the state's economy.
Over the past ten years, passenger rail is making a big comeback. Amtrak ridership is increasing both nationally and in New England, including Vermont. In June 2017, Springfield, Mass., re-opened its completely restored Union Station. In June 2018, the 62 mile Hartford Commuter Line between New Haven, Conn., and Springfield, Mass., opened, nearly doubling the number of trains running between these two cities. In June 2019, Amtrak service should be extended north of Springfield to Northfield, Mass., just 21 miles south of Brattleboro, the next logical extension. Finally, work is continuing to restore service from Montreal through Vermont to Washington, DC. All of these developments suggest that station improvements would bring many more riders to the station and visitors to the Museum.
Having a master plan would provide direction for improvements in both the near term and later, and demonstrate to Amtrak that Brattleboro was serious about those upgrades and wanted additional service.
Dan Peacock, member
Brattleboro Museum and Art Center and Passenger Rail Association
Surry, N.H., Dec. 6
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