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A Step Closer To Train Service From Vermont To Montreal

Amtrak Service to Montreal through Vermont, which ended in 1995, is a step closer to resuming.
AP/Toby Talbot
Amtrak Service to Montreal through Vermont, which ended in 1995, is a step closer to resuming.

A significant hurdle to the resumption of Amtrak rail service through Vermont to Montreal was cleared Monday when the United States and Canada signed an agreement allowing the creation of a U.S. Customs facility in Montreal.  

The agreement marks a long-awaited starting point for the effort to begin in earnest to restore service to Montreal. This year marks 20 years since the Amtrak Montrealer stopped running.

However, many hurdles remain. Most fall to the state – not the federal government – to resolve.

“These are complicated issues. A lot of them will require funding and the state of Vermont is currently going through some funding and financial difficulties,” says Deputy Secretary of Transportation Chris Cole.

Cole says the remaining issues include upgrading the tracks north of the border, securing train access to the Victoria Bridge across the St. Lawrence River, resolving union labor issues and paying the cost of actually operating the train.

Vermont currently partners with Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York to pay for the two Amtrak routes that run through the state.

Cole says all of the states and the Province of Quebec want to see service to Montreal resumed.

“To me it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when. It’s a question of how do we appropriately apportion the costs amongst all the parties that are going to benefit from the service,” he says.

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, who has pushed for the agreement, applauded the milestone in easing travel between the U.S. and Canada.

“We have to have an agreement like this. Then we can go forward,” Leahy says. “Especially since 9/11, it has become so unnecessarily difficult at times. Let’s get back to recognizing the fact we have two very friendly countries that border each other.”

Leahy is also working to establish a pre-clearance facility for flyers who travel between Toronto and Burlington, who currently have to go through a cumbersome customs check.

Copyright 2015 Vermont Public Radio

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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