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A southbound Amtrak Vermonter stops at the passenger platform of the Brattleboro station. Plans are in the works to build a platform that would be ADA-compliant.

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Amtrak plans new station for Brattleboro

Proposed building would be ADA-compliant, with changes to platform and track

BRATTLEBORO—Though no passenger trains have been stopping here since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amtrak says it is in discussions with the town, the New England Central Railroad, and the state on a feasibility study for a new station that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

According to a Nov. 19 news release from Amtrak, the new station would be located on Depot Street, directly across from the current station stop. It would feature the first level boarding platform in Vermont.

Measuring approximately 48 inches above track, the proposed new platform will allow passengers to move on or off a train without having to step up or down.

Additional ADA-compliant amenities include parking, ramps and steps up to the platform level, lights, signage, a new waiting room with an attached restroom, and covered outdoor seating.

Amtrak’s daily passenger train, the Vermonter, has not run in Vermont since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. The Vermonter is financed primarily through funds made available by the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans), the Connecticut Department of Transportation, and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

Gov. Phil Scott said that he welcomed Amtrak’s commitment to upgrading the station and that he held out hope for the resumption of train travel to and from the state.

“As we work to increase and improve passenger train travel throughout Vermont, these improvements to the Brattleboro Station will greatly benefit travelers from Vermont and the region,” said Gov. Phil Scott. “We look forward to resuming Amtrak service in Vermont as quickly and safely as possible. We’ll be watching the regional COVID data closely and hope to start service again as nearby counties see lower caseloads.”

Since the start of Amtrak in 1971, the Brattleboro station has been located in the baggage area of Union Station, now the home of the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center.

Despite the lack of amenities, it had been, pre-pandemic, one of the busiest stations in Vermont. In Amtrak’s 2019 fiscal year, 16,765 passengers came through the station.

“This project began as a joint effort by Amtrak and the town of Brattleboro to bring our existing station into ADA compliance,” said Town Manager Peter Elwell.

“Thanks to the commitment and collaboration of Amtrak, VTrans, elected and appointed officials at all levels of government, and the host railroad, we now will have a brand new station that will exceed minimum ADA compliance to provide a fully accessible facility that also will enhance the local built environment and our regional economy,” Elwell added.

Amtrak Vice President of Stations, Facilities, Properties and Accessibility David Handera said he is “very pleased to receive positive feedback from the various stakeholders on the design of this station that will provide modern accessibility features for a better customer experience.”

Vermont’s Congressional delegation also praised Amtrak’s proposal.

“Vermont’s weather presents challenges to travelers all year round,” said U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. “Amtrak’s investment in an ADA-accessible platform and station will ensure that all rail passengers in Brattleboro will have a safe, warm, welcoming place to wait for and board the train.”

“Improving our public transportation infrastructure is a key step in combating climate change and transforming our economy into one that is more energy efficient,” said U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. “This proposal is an important first step, and I look forward to it becoming a reality.”

“Passenger rail is a real priority for Vermont businesses and local communities,” said U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. “I’m pleased to hear that this proposed station in Brattleboro will exceed accessibility requirements for those with disabilities. This an important step to make Vermont more accessible.”

Plans call for Amtrak to continue to staff the new facility with an attendant within an hour of a train’s departure or arrival time and for the station to feature a bike rack and a covered outdoor space.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #589 (Wednesday, November 25, 2020). This story appeared on page A1.

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