Vermont officials are optimistic that a new law expanding customers operations outside the United States will pave the way for extending the Vermonter to Montreal.
The law, which was signed by President Obama last year, will allow the United States to expand the number of pre-clearance facilities it has in Canada.
The Vermonter operates between Washington and St. Albans, Vermont. In past years the train operated to Montreal as the Montrealer.
In the pre-clearance program, passengers bound for the United Sates go through customs in Canada. Those who do not pass the inspection are not allowed to board the train.
The program has been used for airline passengers for many years. The U.S. currently has 15 pre-clearance facilities in six countries.
Customs officials say an advantage of preclearance is cost savings. Last year customs turned away more than 10,000 travelers and saved $20 million in detention and repatriation expenses.
The office of U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont said it will be at least two years before everything is in place to be able to extend the Vermonter to Montreal.
Some sections of track in Canada need to be rehabilitated, union-related crew issues must be worked out and funding for the track work and construction of the Montreal pre-clearance facility has yet to be approved.
If the Vermonter is extended into Canada, there will be no intermediate stops between Montreal Central Station and St. Albans. U.S. and Canadian customs inspections will be done in Montreal.
“This Act is key to the long-term strategy of the United States and Canada to make cross-border transit more efficient, fostering economic development and improving safety and security of our shared border,” said Amtrak’s senior Vice President of Government Affairs Joe McHugh in a statement. “When implemented, Amtrak passengers can look forward to a more reliable, safer and more efficient cross-border experience.”
It is not clear what effect the incoming Trump administration might have on the preclearance expansion plans.
Trump has vowed to tighten border security although he has not commented specifically about the U.S.-Canadian border.