‘The Year Closes On A High Note For Vermont’s Transportation Future’ -- Leahy-Authored Bill To Facilitate Preclearance Travel Operations In Canada Is Signed Into Law

. . . Thursday News Conference In Burlington Spotlights Removal Of The Largest Hurdle For Swifter Cross-Border Air and Rail Travel Between Vermont and Canada

BURLINGTON (THURSDAY, Dec. 22, 2016) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) was joined Thursday by federal and state officials, representatives of Amtrak, Porter Airlines and local chamber of commerce officials at the Burlington International Airport to mark the enactment of the Promoting Travel, Commerce, and National Security Act.

The legislation, unanimously passed by the U.S. Senate in the last day of this year’s session, was signed into law by President Obama on December 16th.  Leahy penned the legislation earlier this year, which is needed to facilitate air travel – and eventually, passenger rail service – between Burlington and Canadian cities, and between other U.S. and Canadian destinations.

The new law paves the way for expansion of preclearance facilities, operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, at land, rail, marine and air ports of departure in Canada, easing travel and commerce between the two countries.  The event Thursday coincided with Porter Airlines first seasonal flight between Toronto City Airport and Burlington International.  Toronto City Airport is a possible future preclearance site in Canada.

The Leahy-led bill promotes two key national goals: enhancing U.S. national security, and increasing efficiency for travelers and commercial exchanges.  Leahy has long advocated improving cross-border travel and was the driving force behind this effort, forging the bipartisan and bicameral coalition and guiding its passage through the Senate.

Leahy said:  “Vermonters regularly talk to me about improving the travel experience between Canada and the United States.  As we welcome the first Porter Airlines flight between Toronto and Burlington for the winter season, it’s great to be able to celebrate the progress we have made this year.  We still have more work to do, but with President Obama signing this into law, we removed the biggest hurdle standing in the way of improved air and rail travel between our countries.  This year is closing on a high note for Vermont’s transportation future.” 

Customs and Border Protection Boston Field Office Director Ferrara said:  “This agreement marks an important step in enhancing security in the aviation, land, rail and maritime environments with a dual benefit of facilitating legitimate travel between the U.S. and Canada.”

Porter Airlines President and CEO Robert Deluce said:  “The longstanding and successful preclearance system in Canada will be enhanced with implementation of this legislation.  Porter Airlines is pleased that our main operating base at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport has been prioritized as an early addition to the program.  Preclearance at Billy Bishop Airport will allow Porter to operate more effectively on our many existing U.S. routes, while also opening the door to serving new U.S. destinations.  Burlington, Vt., is among Porter’s current seasonal routes that can benefit by providing an even simpler entry point to the state.  Senator Leahy is a leader in Congress who recognized the value of preclearance early on.  This opportunity to create more two-way travel and trade between Canada and the U.S. will strengthen existing cultural and economic ties.  We look forward to the Parliament of Canada also making necessary legislative updates to allow for preclearance at Billy Bishop Airport to become a reality.” 

CEO of PortsToronto, owner and operator of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, Geoffrey Wilson said:  “PortsToronto, owner and operator of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, is pleased to be one step closer to securing a U.S. Preclearance Facility at Billy Bishop Airport.  As the sixth busiest Canadian airport servicing the U.S., and the only one of Canada’s top-tier airports without preclearance, Billy Bishop Airport is an important gateway. Preclearance will encourage trade and tourism between our two countries and provide easier access to the U.S. for our passengers, further enhancing the customer service experience at our award-winning airport.  Preclearance also presents the ability to serve U.S. markets more broadly and creates opportunity to add new hub and regional U.S. markets to our network.  We look forward to continuing to work with Canadian officials and U.S. CBP on implementing preclearance at Billy Bishop Airport and realizing the benefits associated with encouraging bilateral trade, facilitating convenient travel for business and leisure passengers, offering next-generation travel technology, and reinforcing national security.” 

Senior Vice President, Government Affairs at Amtrak, Joe McHugh said:  “Amtrak appreciates the leadership of Senator Patrick Leahy and hard work by many others in working to pass the Promoting Travel, Commerce, and National Security Act. 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.  When implemented, Amtrak passengers can look forward to a more reliable, safer and more efficient cross-border experience.”

The United States currently operates preclearance facilities at 15 airports in six countries, including Canada.  These facilities allow travelers to pass through Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspections prior to traveling, expediting their arrival in the United States, and protecting national security by preventing those who should not be traveling to the United States from doing so before they arrive.  Under a new agreement, the United States will expand its preclearance operations in Canada.  The Leahy-authored legislation ensures that the United States has the legal authority to hold U.S. officials accountable if they engage in wrongdoing while stationed in Canada – a necessary prerequisite to full implementation of this agreement.

The new law will advance discussions regarding the creation of a preclearance facility at Montreal’s Central Station, reestablishing passenger train service between Vermont and Montreal, and it is a step forward in improving the air service between Burlington International Airport and Toronto City Airport.  The United States currently stations CBP Officers in select locations in Canada to inspect passengers and cargo bound for the United States before they leave Canada.  These operations relieve congestion at U.S. airports, improve commerce, save money, and provide national security benefits.

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