At the legislative Commission on International Trade & State Sovereignty in Montpelier, Chris Cole from the Agency of Transportation, outlined the state's ongoing work to restore passenger train service from Vermont to Montreal.
Four issues need to be resolved:
1. Pre-Clerance proceedures
2. Funding & Building the pre-clerance facility in Montreal
3. Resolving Operating Agreements
4. Upgrading the tracks.
The recent "Beyond The Border" agreement between the US and Canada commits the US and Canada to resolve border issues for trains through pre-clearnce in Canada so passenger trains do not have to be delayed for an unpredictable number of hours when they reach the border. Pre-Clerance in British Columbia will go first, followed by Montreal.
A space in Montreal Central Station adjacent to platform 23 has been identified for a pre-clearance facility. Three different entities have property rights in that area, making the deal more complex.
Amtrak has developed an archtectual plan for the facility which has been reviewed and improved by the Canadian border authorities. U.S. Customs & Border Patrol is now reviewing the plan.
A Memo of understanding has been signed between Amtrak and AMT, theMontreal commuter train agency. AMT will enter into the agreement with architect.
The operating host for the facility has not yet been identified. It might be VIA or AMT.
Various agreements must be concluded over the next 6-9 months, including the architectual plans, property aquisition and lease of an escalator at the station. By the spring of 2013 an addendum to the existing air pre-clearance treaty should be added for both rail and marine. We will then have to apply for pre-clerance and CBP must approve it which will require meeting a passenger volume threashold.
Quebec is preparing an RFP to study track conditions on the Canadian side of the border to Montreal and the cost to raise it to similiar standards as in Vermont.
"It is the goal of the agency to extend the 286 and continous welded rail to the Canadian border as soon as we can find the funds to do so," Chris Cole told the legislature.
The Victoria Bridge, in the Montreal area, is a bottleneck, according to Cole who says that negotiations between owner Canadian National Railroad and the Provence of Quebec will be complicated according to the Quebec government.
The estimate returning intercity passenger trains from Vermont to Montreal is three years. This is a goal that Cole calls "ambitious but achievable," cautioning that if any one of these elements mentioned in this article don't fall into place it will be delayed.
Providence of Quebec and City of Montreal extremely supportive. Support from conressional deligation.