By MIKE STANTON
I attended a meeting at the Fredonia State incubator last week. It was made up of a mixture of community people and public officials. The organization of the meeting was impressive. It focused on five specific areas, particularly beautification, signage, and the presentation by John Ames about using Dunkirk as the focal point for the entire Chautauqua County shoreline. There were also some very good ideas concerning marketing Dunkirk.
What I took exception to was when Steve Neratko of the local development office mentioned the possibility of reopening the Dunkirk passenger station for use by Amtrak. The station has been closed to passengers for over 40 years. The last passenger train stopped in Dunkirk in 1971.
OBSERVER file photo
Despite efforts by Dunkirk, a train station for Amtrak is wishful thinking.
Neratko mentioned that he had talked to CSX officials in Buffalo. I questioned him about whether he had talked to any Amtrak officials. He didn't say if he had.
He did say the CSX official told him in order for the train to stop at Dunkirk, there would have to be work done on signals and the tracks. I imparted this information to Councilwoman Stephanie Kiyak several months ago. The cost for this would be more than $1 million. This doesn't take into account the restoration of the station. The cost would be probably another few million dollars, especially in order to make it handicap accessible.
I have talked to Amtrak people in the last few months. As a former Amtrak conductor, I might have a little more access to information and veracity than Mr. Neratko.
The Amtrak people I had communications with said they have absolutely no plans for any train stopping at Dunkirk. Their focus is on establishing service from New York to Chicago through Pittsburgh. There is a possibility the trains which run through Dunkirk - Nos. 49 and 48 - might be terminated. Neratko said he was aware of this.
Why would we want to spend any time and money on something that might disappear?
I gave an example to the group that night of a train, the Sunset Limited (New Orleans to Los Angeles) that runs three days a week in each direction. Amtrak wants to make that train run on a daily basis. Union Pacific has said infrastructure costs for that to happen would be about $1.1 billion.
Amtrak would also like to run The Cardinal (New York to Washington to Chicago) daily instead of three times a week. Their focus is on electrification improvements, new engines, and upgrading speeds on the Northeast Corridor.
Neratko's closing remark was a study might be done to see if the ridership is feasible for a stop in Dunkirk. Studies cost time and money.
It would be prudent for the local development people to focus on what is practical, what can actually be accomplished, what is cost worthy, and what will benefit our area in the most productive manner.
The reopening of the train station at Dunkirk conforms to none of the above factors. Simply put, the ridership isn't there.
We need to think. This is our tax money being spent.
Mike Stanton is a Fredonia resident.