ST. ALBANS CITY — As passenger Peggy Newbury put it, a $12 Amtrak ticket to ride anywhere in the state is just too good of a deal to pass up. “Heck, I’ll take advantage of it,” she said.
Newbury, a 56-year-old Fairfield resident who was planning on visiting her husband down in Brattleboro where he works, was one of the four ticket holders for the Wednesday morning Vermonter out of St. Albans.
“It’s my first time,” Newbury said.
Newbury said if the train offered more scheduled times, she might use it more frequently in lieu of driving. “I guess it would depend on the schedule.”
Newbury is not the only new Amtrak passenger to catch the train at the St. Albans station recently. According to station caretaker Bob Giordano, ridership has been on the steady rise for the past five years.
“It’s coming back,” he said of train commuting. “With the price of gas, it’s coming back.”
As of now, the St. Albans station sees up to 15 passengers a day, and it saw a total of 3,592 in 2013. Giordano sees all of them. “Rain or shine, 7 days a week, the station is open,” he said.
Giordano said he likes his job, which requires him to be at the station everyday, one hour before both the 8:58 a.m. departure and the 9 p.m. arrival. He’s been caretaker for six years. “It’s very nice meeting people,” he said of the various business travelers, vacationers and commuters that pass through. “You see some happy faces and some sad faces leaving here.”
The local train station is currently a little worse for wear, with posters and other items stacked against the walls on the inside and orange netting and ribbons decorating the outside of the little brick building.
As part of a $2.7 million investment made by Amtrak in 2012, the St. Albans station is in the midst of a make over: a new platform running between Lake Street and the station was completed recently, and the station itself is being renovated in order to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The renovations are expected to be complete in June. “That’s why you see all the mess,” Giordano said.
The train tracks themselves are also undergoing change. Vermont received a $7.9 million federal grant in 2012 to upgrade and rehabilitate the tracks between St. Albans and Alburgh. At the moment, St. Albans is the northernmost Vermont stop for Amtrak.
It may not be for long, though. With the tracks upgrade, there may be more room for considering a northward extension of the Vermonter. “This [train] is in the process of going back to Montreal,” Giordano said.
The trans-country service was originally stopped in 1995, but perhaps by 2015, said Giordano, the Vermonter could be traveling north again.
“This is the end of the line,” Giordano said. “[At least], before it goes to Montreal.”