The Telegram
  • Amtrak service in Utica, across NY, hinges on agreement

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  • Train service in Utica could grind to a halt by mid-October if Amtrak and the state can not come to terms on a cost-sharing agreement.
    Under the 2008 federal Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, states and rail companies are supposed to share the costs of improving service, operations, and facilities on routes under 750 miles.
    The deadline to set up those agreements is Tuesday, Oct. 1.
    A report in the Albany Times-Union cited a letter from Amtrak to the Federal Railroad Administration that said as of Wednesday, Oct. 2, stations in states without agreements will no longer accept reservations on routes slated to be closed.
    On Wednesday, Oct. 16, trains on those routes will be moved to other stations.
    Amtrak spokesman Clifford Cole declined to provide a copy of the letter, saying it was not being publicly distributed.
    “We continue to work with the states and believe we will reach a positive outcome,” he wrote in an email. “Moving forward, should that time arrive however, we will make the appropriate public comments.”
    The company sent notices to employees in areas that might close to warn them they may lose their jobs, but is hopeful to reach an agreement before cutting service, Cole said.
    “Amtrak has reached agreement with eight state partners to preserve service,” he wrote. “However, per labor contract agreements, Amtrak this week will send notices to locations where employees may be directly affected by any potential service suspensions. This is a procedural yet necessary action to begin planning for the possibility that some service will be affected as the law prohibits Amtrak from running these services without financial support from the states.”
    Amtrak has signed agreements with Virginia, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Wisconsin, Oregon, Washington and California.
    Amtrak employs 1,645 workers in New York and recorded 65,916 boardings and departures at its Utica station in 2012. Statewide ridership was up 5.1 percent in 2012 over the previous year.
    Mark Laramie, deputy commissioner of engineering for the Oneida County Department of Public Works, said he had not received any information about a potential shutdown.
    The negotiations are progressing well, and the state expects to have an agreement by the deadline, said Carol Breen, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.
    “We’re confident this will not affect any Amtrak customers,” she said.
    The shutdown also would not have any affect on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad which is independently operated.
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