Northeast Regional Leaders Consider Rail Service to Montreal

Solving cross-border travel problems is on the to-do list for New England governors and eastern Canadian premiers. And the leaders meeting in Burlington this week say they’re making progress to restore passenger rail service to Montreal.

The Amtrak train now stops in St. Albans and passengers who want to continue north to Canada have to travel by bus. The passengers must clear customs at the border

Governor Peter Shumlin says Quebec is moving ahead on plans to build a new customs center at the Montreal train station. That would allow travelers to be processed by customs agents for both countries in Montreal.

On the U.S. side, Shumlin says the states and federal government are investing tens of million of dollars to boost travel speeds by rail.

“They’re going to make that train faster in the next several months. And you add in the extraordinary work that Premier Charest has done with his federal government, that we’ve done with ours to have an instantaneous border crossing at Montreal, and I’m convinced that you will see higher speed rail by 2013, and you will see the Montreal connection not long after that,” he says.

Transportation and energy were the main themes of the New England governors and Eastern Canadian premiers’ conference.

The governors and premiers heard about plans to transform Springfield, Mass. into a rail hub and about upgrades to the rail system in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont.

Guy Bresnahan, with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, says his state wants to make Springfield a regional transportation center for travelers.

“It’s an $83 million undertaking that we’re committed to and it’s really going to bring back Springfield as a focal point for rail transportation,” he says. “It’s going to become the first major stop for passengers for southbound passengers from Canada and Vermont.”

Vermont Transportation secretary Brian Searles says regional investments in rail are critical to build ridership.

“Well, the whole idea is to have this train compete with the automobile, and to do that we have to have speeds that exceed the automobile. So we’re talking about getting to the 79 mile per hour mark at least on this line, leading down to a 135 mile per hour line in the Interstate 95 corridor,” he says. “So it’s really important that Connecticut and Massachusetts are making these improvements because that’s where we’re going to pick up a lot of our time.”

The leaders also focused on promoting electric vehicles. Quebec Premier Jean Charest announced his government would work with private industry to install electric re-charging stations on the road from Montreal to the U.S. border.