It’s official: The Walk to Washington train trip, shelved since the pandemic, will return in 2025, New Jersey Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Bracken told ROI-NJ this weekend.
The event will take place Feb. 6-7, 2025, with participants staying at the Omni Shoreham hotel in Washington, D.C.
The chamber still is working out details with Amtrak — which Bracken said is on board with the idea — and on various insurance items, but there’s nothing that will prevent the return of the Walk.
“We’ve signed a deal with the Omni and we’re ready to go,” Bracken said. “We have to work out pricing with Amtrak, but we won’t be able to do that until we get closer to the event.”
In the past, the event has drawn anywhere from 750-1,000 people. It’s too early to say how popular it will be in 2025.
There are two things in its favor:
- “When is the Walk coming back?” has been a popular question for the chamber; so, there is interest;
- The event’s return comes during a gubernatorial election year — one in which there is no incumbent. In the past, that has led to a spike of interest.
“If you’re going to run, you first have to Walk” has been a popular phrase over the years.
Gov. Phil Murphy, in fact, made a huge splash with his presence on the train in 2017 — followed by a huge party that night.
Bracken expects that same spirit to be present in 2025. Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli already are announced candidates. U.S. Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-5th Dist.) and Mikie Sherrill (D-11th Dist.) are said to be mulling a run — among a host of others.
“The timing is perfect to bring it back,” he said. “This will take place right around the time a lot of people will declare.”
For those not familiar, the Walk to Washington began nearly 90 years ago as a train trip for New Jersey elected officials and business leaders that enabled them to meet personally with the state’s congressional leaders. It long ago evolved into a huge networking trip, often drawing as many as 1,000 people.
The history of the Walk is by no means perfect. In recent years, women have detailed inappropriate actions toward them on the train, which took on a fraternity-house atmosphere.
In 2020, the last Walk, the chamber instituted increased safety measures and instituted a zero-tolerance policy for bad behavior. Bracken said that will again be the case in 2025 and future years.
The “future years” question also is out there.
As a replacement for the Walk, the chamber held a ReNew Jersey Summit in Atlantic City during the same part of the year. In 2024, it will take place March 26-27 at Harrah’s Resort & Casino Atlantic City.
There has been some speculation that perhaps the events will alternate years going forward. Bracken said it’s too early to tell how it will play out.
This much is certain: The Walk to Washington will return in 2025.