Patrick Leahy-sponsored bill will ease border crossing from Canada

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy speaks to supporters after his re-election over Republican challenger Scott Milne Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, in Burlington, Vt. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy speaks to supporters after his re-election, on November 8 in Burlington, Vermont. –Robert F. Bukaty / AP

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A bill headed to the desk of President Barack Obama for his signature is a big step toward restoring Amtrak passenger rail service between Montreal and Vermont and making it easier for direct commercial flights between Toronto and Burlington, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy says.

The Senate unanimously passed legislation Saturday designed to accommodate travel and commerce between the United States and Canada by expanding preclearance facilities operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, at land, rail, marine and air ports of departure in Canada, the Vermont Democrat said.

Leahy says the Promoting Travel, Commerce, and National Security Act enhances U.S. national security and makes it easier for travelers to the U.S. from Canada, and enhances commercial exchanges.

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“It’s a win for Vermont’s economy, and for Canadians who visit Vermont to sightsee, ski, shop and dine,” Leahy said in a statement.

Leahy has been working with Vermont transportation officials for years to restore Amtrak rail service between the northwestern Vermont city of St. Albans and Montreal, but preclearance must be available before that can happen.

The U.S. currently operates preclearance facilities at 15 airports in six countries, including Canada. The preclearance facilities allow travelers and cargo bound for the U.S. to be screened by U.S. Customs agents before entering the country.

The legislation is needed to further discussions about the creation of a preclearance facility at Montreal’s Central Station. It would also be a step toward improving air service between Toronto’s City Airport and Burlington.