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Vermont, Quebec discuss rail link

MONTPELIER — Premier Pauline Marois of Quebec is committed to improving rail connections between Montreal and the US border, possibly taking an hour off the trip to New York, Governor Peter Shumlin of Vermont said Monday.

Shumlin, after meeting with Marois in Montreal, said a major impediment to improved rail communication remains the preclearance of passengers and cargo by customs officials from both countries when crossing the border.

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Rail improvement projects in the Northeastern United States and Canada have been under way for some time, and Shumlin said he, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, Connecticut’s governor, Dannel Malloy, and Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts ‘‘are delivering on upgrading the tracks and speeding up the rail from New York to the Canadian border.’’

Shumlin has been committed to improving rail connections between Vermont and Quebec, including the restoration of Amtrak service between St. Albans and Montreal. Currently, the Vermonter train ends service in St. Albans, just south of the Canadian border.

The rail improvements discussed by Shumlin and Marois include a spur to Boston.

In addition, Marois said she was committed to expanding Autoroute 35 from the Vermont border at Highgate Springs to Montreal and hoped to be able to complete it by 2017, Shumlin said. Much of the road north to Montreal from the top of Interstate 89 has only two lanes.

Shumlin and Marois signed a 15-point cooperation agreement between Vermont and Quebec. The document didn’t commit Vermont or Quebec to any specific actions, but it said the details of the agreement would be implemented using a mechanism set up by a similar 2003 agreement that created a Joint Vermont-Quebec Committee.

The governor is committed to improving rail connections between Vermont and Quebec, including the restoration of Amtrak service between St. Albans and Montreal.

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For years, Vermont officials have highlighted the importance of the state’s relationship with Quebec, and all the points in the document have been issues of interest to the state and the province for years.

The first section of the agreement, on economic development, said Vermont and Quebec would ‘‘facilitate meetings and matchmaking’’ and carry out joint marketing activities such as trade missions and hospitality initiatives ‘‘to be part of major North American business networks.’’

It recognized that Vermont utilities import large quantities of electricity from Quebec and the provincial utility Hydro-Quebec is a major supplier of Vermont electric power.

Canada has been seeking ways to increase its exports of electricity to the power-hungry Northeastern United States. The document recognized that Vermont ‘‘is a gateway to New England for the transmission of hydroelectricity produced in Quebec.’

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