WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Vermont Congressional Delegation, led by Senate Commerce Committee member Senator Peter Welch (D-VT), this week called on Amtrak to provide an update on the establishment of interim preclearance operations to support rail travel between Vermont and Quebec and the federal actions needed for the full implementation of a preclearance program. Senators Welch and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Representative Becca Balint (D-VT) asked Amtrak Board of Directors Chair Anthony Coscia to work with the delegation to expand rail service in Vermont.
“Expanding Amtrak’s existing service to connect Vermont and Quebec—already Vermont’s largest international trading partner—would improve economic opportunity in our state. For many Vermont businesses and residents, Montreal is the closest out-of-state metropolitan area—closer even than Boston or New York City. However, despite this centuries-long relationship encompassing cross-border communities, friends, families, and businesses, Amtrak’s Vermonter line has not travelled to Montreal since 1995,” the Vermont Delegation wrote in the letter.
“As you know, a key challenge to expanding rail service to Quebec is the lack of preclearance operations in Canada that would allow passengers to undergo customs checks prior to boarding their train. Preclearance would reduce delays associated with international travel, improve safety and security along our northern border, and strengthen the cultural and commercial ties between the United States and Canada,” the Delegation concluded.
The Vermont Delegation requested Amtrak detail the interim steps Amtrak is taking to establish a preclearance program at Montreal Central Station before the permanent facility can be constructed, and how Amtrak is working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection on those steps. The Delegation also asked how soon Amtrak anticipates a preclearance program could begin between Vermont and Montreal, and the additional federal actions needed to expedite the completion of that process—including the staffing, equipment, access agreements, and funding and timeline for the construction of a preclearance facility.
Congress authorized Amtrak to expand preclearance operations to allow rail activities in Canada in 2016 through the Promoting Travel, Commerce, and National Security Act. Logistical and operational obstacles have hindered the full implementation of preclearance activities between the United States and Canada, and a preclearance facility in Montreal Central Station has not been finished to-date.
As outlined in the letter, the resumption of the Ethan Allen Express line between New York and Vermont, which included newly reopened stations in Burlington, Middlebury, and Vergennes, has been a popular and economically impactful improvement for Vermont’s local communities. Expanding rail service between Vermont and Quebec would build on this progress for the state’s small businesses, workers, and tourism industry.
Read and download the full letter here.