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Rally to tout Dunkirk rail service

An event is planned this weekend to rally awareness and support for Dunkirk’s effort to get an Amtrak passenger rail service station.

“Get on a Train Day” is set for 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Chautauqua County Fairgrounds on Central Avenue. Common Council member Natalie Luczkowiak announced the event at this week’s council meeting.

The rally will be held at the ALCO/Brooks Locomotive engine and train car display. It is sponsored by Connect Dunkirk and the Dunkirk Historical Society. According to a flyer posted on Facebook by the historical society, there will be information available about Amtrak service, local train excursions and railroad museums, and free grape baskets.

The Common Council approved a feasibility study for a new Amtrak stop in February. Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas told the OBSERVER this week the study showed Dunkirk “was the spot that it should go and made most sense.”

Amtrak has floated the idea of a new stop between its existing ones in Buffalo and Erie, Pa., as part of a proposed expansion of routes. A map depicting Amtrak’s proposal put the station in Westfield, not Dunkirk.

“Amtrak has to feel this is the best location. It’s a competitive process,” Rosas said. “We have spent resources, not just financially, but our team working collaboratively with our consultants, not only on the study but working with state and federal officials.”

Passenger trains used to stop in Dunkirk at a station near the intersection of Third and Main streets. That station still exists but is in poor condition — even 21 years ago, a city-backed study dismissed the idea of reusing it.

There isn’t a specific site proposed yet to host a new Dunkirk station.

City officials have spoken periodically to state and federal officials for help in getting the station. “We’re still in the process of reaching out,” Rosas said. He noted that state Sen. Tim Kennedy, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, has indicated he would write a letter of support to transportation officials for a station in Dunkirk.

Rosas said SUNY Fredonia President Stephen Kolison is “very supportive of the initiative,” and has already sent in his letter of support. One of the reasons Dunkirk’s study identified it as the best local candidate for a station was its close proximity to SUNY Fredonia, the mayor noted.

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