ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Amtrak has temporarily suspended its Empire Service lines west of Albany, along with the Lake Shore Limited, due to a building issue near the tracks. Mayor Kathy Sheehan later confirming it was concrete falling off the derelict Central Warehouse that came close to hitting the nearby tracks and prompted the shut down.
Due to a potential safety concern with a non-Amtrak, privately owned building located near the tracks, Empire Service West of Albany and the Lake Shore Limited are temporarily suspended. Full Amtrak service will remain between Albany and New York City.
Customers with reservations on trains that are being modified will typically be accommodated on trains with similar departure times or another day. Amtrak will waive additional charges for customers looking to change their reservation during the modified schedule by calling our reservation center at 1-800-USA-RAIL.
Mayor Sheehan saying the city has been given a structural engineering report, stating that the collapse of portions of the exterior southerly wall of Central Warehouse is considered imminent. She says the exterior walls are separate from the main structure, which remains solid.
“As a result, I have declared a state of emergency and we are working closely with local, state, and federal partners and engineering experts to determine the extent of the structural failure and develop a plan to ensure the safety of our residents and businesses, and get the trains running on time and interstate commerce back on track,” Mayor Sheehan says.
She also adds she issued a violation to Central Warehouse owner, Evan Blum. As NEWS10 has reported, Blum has been in a string of ongoing legal battles with Albany County trying to maintain his ownership of the building, despite failing to maintain it or pay the property taxes for several years. The county had already made plans to seize and auction off the building before Blum launched several claims in bankruptcy court.
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy also sharing a statement after the Amtrak suspension writing:
What we are seeing with respect to safety concerns at the Central Warehouse and the temporary suspension of Amtrak service is a real world consequence of ongoing frivolous litigation carried out by the owner, the Phoenix of Albany LLC, which is solely owned by Evan Blum. For over a year now, Blum has repeatedly attempted to use the courts to disingenuously prevent the transfer of title to the Central Warehouse to Albany County and ultimately tied our hands in this regard.
This has only delayed any meaningful rehabilitation of the property structure, which has continued to decay since Blum acquired it in August of 2017. I commend Mayor Sheehan for taking swift action today in declaring a state of emergency to remedy this situation as quickly as possible. I will continue to work with the City and the State in any way we can to resolve the matter and ensure the safety and wellbeing of our residents.Albany County Executive Dan McCoy
Another unfortunate setback comes to the newly returning rail service between Burlington, VT and New York City. Local officials in Burlington held a celebratory event Friday morning praising the expansion to rail infrastructure which hadn’t supported travel between the two cities since the 1950s.
Although the Ethan Allen Express did depart from Burlington after the ceremony, a check of the Amtrak Track Your Train app shows the trip was halted around Saratoga Springs citing simply “service disruption” with no estimated arrivals or departure times. Sheehan says in communications with Amtrak, she was informed the service is working on buses to commute passengers between stations affected by the shutdown near the Central Warehouse.
A spokesman for Amtrak confirms buses were used Friday once Ethan Allen Express passengers reached Saratoga Springs to detour them to Albany and continue to NYC. Service will continue utilizing the buses in both directions. When asked about refunds, the spokesperson responded:
If Amtrak makes a schedule change, an equipment substitution or cancellation and the new accommodation charge or rail fare is lower as a result, an eVoucher will be created to hold any residual value. A cancellation fee or non-cancellation penalty will not apply to the refundable amounts in this eVoucher. We make every attempt to reschedule the customer on the next available train. When that is not possible, we issue a refund.