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Amtrak resumes daily service through Lincoln
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Amtrak resumes daily service through Lincoln

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Major changes to travel are expected under a Biden presidency.

As daily life returns to normal during the nation's COVID-19 recovery, Amtrak trains are once again rumbling through Lincoln on a daily basis. 

The California Zephyr, the Amtrak train that runs from Chicago to San Francisco, has resumed its pre-pandemic schedule of one eastbound and one westbound train stopping in Lincoln in the early hours of each day.

ProRail Nebraska, a group of citizens that supports the continuation of passenger train service in the state, met the westbound train at the Lincoln Amtrak station on the first day of resumed daily service, May 24. According to ProRail's District 1 director, Richard Schmeling, ProRail opposed the pause in daily service, lobbying Nebraska's federal representatives to support Amtrak through the pandemic. 

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said daily service was halted on many routes after the Senate declined to pass funding for the service during the pandemic. Now that legislation providing the funding has been passed and signed by the president, he said, Amtrak has resumed service at full capacity. 

“It enables us to be a better service in the 500 places we serve," he said. 

It also enabled Amtrak to recall over 2,000 workers nationally that it put on furlough while service was decreased, Magliari said, including conductors, engineers and service people. 

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Amtrak provides an important service, he said, because for many different reasons, some Americans need or prefer passenger trains as an alternative to long road trips and flights. 

"For a lot of people, roads like I-70 and I-80 are pretty arduous these days," Magliari said, citing semi trucks, speeding cars and distracted drivers as potential dangers on the interstate highway system. 

He said the California Zephyr is particularly special because of the unique vantage it offers of the American West, taking riders to places that cars cannot reach, presenting beautiful mountain and canyon vistas. 

And with full service returning, Magliari said, passengers can leave and return on any day, adding flexibility to their experience. 

That's important to Frank Derryberry, who frequently rides the trains from Lincoln to Denver to visit family. On Friday morning he boarded his second Amtrak train this month. 

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While the trains are convenient and he's glad to avoid the drive to Denver, Derryberry said it's frustrating when the trains run late. On Friday, his train was delayed by well over an hour. 

"I don't like sitting and waiting all night," he said.

But the 69-year-old said taking the train is much better for him than the headaches of driving across the state. He finds the prices reasonable, and now that the trains are running daily once again he can come and go as he pleases. 

"It's like everything else," Derryberry said, "it's got its ups and downs." 

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A Lincoln native, Nick McConnell joined the Journal Star in 2019, covering breaking news and general assignment stories.

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