Alaska Railroad cancels service to State Fair

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The Alaska Railroad (ARRC) cancelled its State Fair Trains, which were scheduled to operate between Anchorage and Palmer on Saturday and Sunday.

The Alaska Railroad says that the cancellations are due to "resources stretched thin by ongoing weather and wildfire challenges."

Four 140-seat trains were scheduled to make the trip, and all of them were filled, according to the railroad. That means that 560 impacted passengers will have their ticket purchases refunded.

ARRC cited rain-induced rick slides in Denali, waterlogged infrastructure from flooding near Seward and the McKinley Fire south of Talkeetna as putting too much strain on the resources.

"The railroad would not be able to maintain regulatory compliance to operate the Fair Trains this weekend," ARRC wrote in a statement. "Safety remains the Alaska Railroad’s highest priority."

For some fairgoers, the Fair Trains are their only way to get to the State Fair.

Lois Gilbert says she's been confined to a power wheel chair for about fifteen years, and that there are no other public transportation services that provide handicapped accessible service to the State Fair.

"It's real inconvenient for friends to take me. To take me they have to take the wheelchair, which requires ramps and most of them already have their SUVs full," she said. "It takes two strong people to lift me up."

She said she has been taking the train for the past decade or more, and that she hopes to take it at a later date if the ARRC provides service over Labor Day weekend, as they are planning.

"Everybody always forgets about the disabled. A lot of us are already battling depression and stress," she said. "Of course, it's not ARRC's fault, it's just a bad situation,"

She said she hopes that Anchorage and the Mat-Su Borough can provide some public transportation to those who can't go otherwise. In any case, she says, providing public transportation relieves traffic congestion -- and can be more enjoyable.

"I just go with one of my girlfriends. We're just happy not to have the fair traffic, you can just relax and read a book. That's how I prefer to get there," she said.

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