Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Return of Amtrak's Montrealer advanced

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Four U.S. Senators representing both New York State and Vermont have revived an effort to restore Amtrak service between Montreal and New York City via Vermont (and New Hampshire).

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Charles Schumer, (D-N.Y.), and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) are urging U.S. and Canadian negotiators to reach quick agreement to allow Customs security clearance for Amtrak to take place in Montreal's Gare Central. That would immediately benefit Amtrak's Adirondack, linking New York and Montreal via New York State, which currently suffers extensive delays at the U.S.-Canadian border near Rouses Point, N.Y.

But such an agreement also could prove critical to reinstating Amtrak's prior link between the two cities east of Lake Champlain. The Montrealer was truncated in 1995 as a cost-cutting measure; the renamed Vermonter now terminates in St. Albans, in northern Vermont.

In a joint letter sent last week to both the U.S. State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, the senators said: "The economic links between Canada and the states of Vermont and New York are vital, and there is great potential to make them stronger still. A smoother customs experience in Montreal will spur job creation and economic opportunities on both sides of the border."

The letter also noted, "In light of the President's [Obama] commitments both to increased passenger rail service and to a more fluid Northern border, we urge you to take the necessary steps to conclude an agreement before the end of 2012 for the pre-clearance of cross border rail passengers, and for the designation of Montréal's Central station as a priority for the development of rail pre-clearance facilities.

The “approval for pre-clearance in Montréal would lay the groundwork for a dramatic improvement of service on Amtrak’s Adirondack line, mark the first crucial step in bringing Amtrak’s Vermonter back to Montreal and, more generally, help increase ridership on the entire Northeast Corridor," the letter said.