FRIENDS OF AMTRAK HOME PAGE--For the latest and most recent news on Amtrak and legislation affecting Amtrak please go to the Friends of Amtrak home page. CLICK HERE
AMTRAK NAMES BAGLEY TO REPLACE WARRINGTON--December 18, 1997. Friends of Amtrak has learned that Stan Bagley has become the acting NEC (Northeast Corridor) President since George Warrington was named to take over the duties of Tom Downs, as interim CEO of Amtrak. Bagley brings at least 10+ years of experience to Amtrak and recently served as Vice President of Customer Services for the Northeast Corridor Strategic Business Unit.
AMTRAK 1998 CALENDARS NOW AVAILABLE--December 17, 1997.-- The 1998 Amtrak calendars can be ordered from:
PO BOX 7717
ITASCA IL 60143
Cost for the 1998 calendar is $6 for 1, $10 for 2, $14 for 3, $16 for 4, 11 to 25 for $2.50 each, and 26 - 50 for $2.25 each.
Calendars from 1980, 81, 83 - 86, 88 - 91, 93 - 97 are also available. 1 - 5 are $3 each, 6 - 25 are $2.00 each, and 26 - 50 are $1.50 each.
This year's calendar features the historic depot at Manassas, VA as the crew and passengers prepare for the departure of the southbound "CRESCENT on its run from NYC to New Orleans. State of the art Viewliners sleeping cars are a highlight of this popular train.
NEW AMTRAK TRAIN SERVICE- Texas /California Eagle --December 16, 1997. Amtrak's Texas/California Eagle direct train service is almost here. A great inaugural run is in the works for the first Texas/California Eagle out of Chicago on Feb 6th 1998. Lets PACK this train. Call Amtrak today for space on this train. The inaugural run schedule again is: Friday, Feb. 6, 1998 out of Chicago, Monday Feb 9, 1998 out of Los Angeles. Most will ride the southbound Eagle as it will be the first train out.
BULLOCK, SCOLARO APPOINTED AMTRAK CORPORATE OFFICERS--December 15, 1997. WASHINGTON -- Amtrak's Board of Directors on Dec. 10, 1997, appointed Lee W. Bullock as President of the Amtrak Intercity business unit and Ronald Scolaro as Vice President of the corporation's Operations Department. Bullock had been serving as the interim president of the Chicago-based business unit since the resignation of Mark S. Cane on October 1, 1997. Scolaro will fill the position vacated by Robert C. VanderClute last month. Both men have more than twenty years experience with Amtrak.
New Motorcoach Connections in Colorado--December 15, 1997. Amtrak trains in Denver and Raton, N.M., now make new connections using motorcoaches to Colorado Springs and Pueblo, Colo. The new service, which became effective last month, connects Colorado Springs and Pueblo to the Amtrak California Zephyr in Denver. TNM&O Coaches provide the motorcoach connection.
AMTRAK CEO TOM DOWNS RESIGNS--December 10, 1997. Thomas M. Downs, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Amtrak, announced today that he will resign his duties with the Corporation. Amtrak's Board of Directors has named George Warrington, President of the Northeast Corridor business unit, to serve as acting President of the corporation during a search for Mr. Downs' successor.
"The past four years as head of Amtrak have been exciting, immensely rewarding professionally, but also exhausting," said Downs, who came to Amtrak as Chairman and President in 1993 after a long a distinguished career in federal, state and local government, primarily in the area of public transportation.
"Although I have no immediate plans, it is time for me to move on to new challenges and, hopefully, take some time off," Downs continued. "I am extremely proud of the progress Amtrak has made toward not only self- sufficiency but a promising, growing role as America's national passenger rail service. In particular, our team at Amtrak has begun building a world-class high speed rail system that will pay benefits to this country well into the next century."
U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater praised Downs for his exceptional performance in leading Amtrak through its most difficult years. "Every American who relies on Amtrak service owes Tom Downs a debt of gratitude for his outstanding leadership of Amtrak during challenging times," Slater said. "I've had the privilege of working closely with Tom since 1993 and have seen Tom work tirelessly, especially during the recent management- labor discussions, to secure a brighter future for Amtrak."
Amtrak's Board of Directors unanimously passed a resolution commending Downs for his achievements in helping the Corporation become more business and customer oriented, obtaining outstanding gains in revenues and ridership during his tenure, and for leading the recent fight for a $2.3 billion dedicated capital improvements fund for Amtrak.
"Tom Downs rebuilt Amtrak into a national rail passenger system of which this country can be proud," said Board Vice-Chairman Don Pease. "Not only the train-riding public, but taxpayers and the entire country, owe Tom its gratitude for making rail passenger service more reliable, safer and attractive. He is also to be especially commended for his successful commitment to keeping nearly the entire country connected to Amtrak service during a time of dwindling federal operating support. We will miss his energy and his dedication."
Mr. Warrington has served as head of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor operations since July 1994. The NEC is Amtrak's most profitable and heavily- used service. "I am honored that the Directors have confidence in my leadership to guide Amtrak through this transition to a new, permanent President and CEO," said Warrington, "but I will deeply miss the leadership and skills of my close friend and mentor, Tom Downs."
AMTRAK'S COAST STARLIGHT RIDERSHIP HITS RECORD HIGH-- Crew Honored For Excellence in Customer Service--December 8, 1997. LOS ANGELES -- Amtrak's Coast Starlight ridership increased 24 percent, representing more than 497,000 customers during FY97 -- the highest in five years.
The daily Los Angeles-Seattle service, Amtrak's premier West Coast "land cruise" travel experience, also jumped a whopping 29 percent in ridership during the fourth quarter (July, Aug., Sept.), the highest quarterly increase in the service's history.
Increased marketing, unique on-board entertainment and amenities, and an on-board customer satisfaction guarantee, as well as growing public awareness of the renaissance of rail travel contributed to the ridership growth.
"We are very pleased with the growing popularity of the Coast Starlight. Many of the amenities such as the Pacific Parlor Car afternoon wine reception, freshly prepared lunch and dinner selections served with regional wines and the Kiddie Kar are Coast Starlight exclusives. Customers are telling their friends about this great one-of-a-kind travel experience," said Coast Starlight General Manager Brian Rosenwald.
PACIFIC NORTHWEST RIDERSHIP UP--December 8, 1997. SEATTLE -- Amtrak ridership in the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor hit a record high of 145,225 passenger trips during the third quarter of the calendar year (July, Aug., Sept.) representing a 10 percent increase over the same period last year.
The Washington State Department of Transportation estimates that had these Amtrak customers used other means of transportation, they would have driven more than 13 million miles, primarily on I-5, and released more than 300 tons of carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides and volatile organic compounds into our air.
AMTRAK CALIFORNIA RIDERSHIP UP--December 7, 1997. AMTRAK CALIFORNIA POSTS RIDERSHIP INCREASES TO CLOSE FY97 Short-Distance Trains Gain Popularity in the Golden State --
OAKLAND -- Each of Amtrak Californias three short-distance corridor routes reported ridership increases to end the federal fiscal year, continuing the trend of the growing popularity of passenger rail in the car-obsessed Golden State.
The Bakersfield-Oakland San Joaquins enjoyed record- breaking ridership with a 21 percent increase over last fiscal year, representing more than 687,720 customers. Monthly ridership records were set during the fourth quarter, marking seven consecutive months of ridership growth.
The San Diego-Los Angeles-Santa Barbara/San Luis Obispo San Diegans reported more than 1,634,860 customers, representing a four percent increase for the fiscal year, the highest in four years. Reserved Custom Class ridership on the San Diegans increased 10 percent (nearly 201,870 customers) and closed with record numbers paving the way for a new level of service to be introduced in 1998.
The Sacramento-Oakland Capitols experienced a six percent increase, representing more than 490,000 customers &endash; the highest in the corridors history &endash; during FY97.
AMTRAK & MICHIGAN IN DISPUTE OVER TRAIN SERVICE PAYMENTS-- December 6, 1997. Friends of Amtrak has learned that the state of Michigan and Amtrak are squabbling over the funding for the Michigan trains: i.e train #s: 350, 351, 352, 353, 354, 355. These trains could be gone if they can't agree on the cost. The problem is that Michigan wants to give Amtrak less money and Amtrak wants more than the current funding levels. Please write to the Senate and House legislators in the state of Michigan if you are a Michigan resident or an out of state resident that uses any of these trains.
AMTRAK'S 1998 TRAVEL PLANNER--December 6, 1997. Amtrak's 104 page 1998 Travel Planner is now available. The handy guidebook provides valuable info on Amtrak vacations, travel tips, scenic routes, on board services and much, much more. For your free copy call Amtrak at 1-800-USA-RAIL.
Amtrak's Toys As Tickets Program Benefits 50th Anniversary of "Toys For Tots"--December 6, 1997. OAKLAND -- Amtrak and Santa are inviting children to ride the train and help spread holiday cheer December 13-14 during Amtraks popular Toys As Tickets promotion to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps "Toys For Tots" program.
Up to two children, aged 2-15, accompanied by a paying adult, may use a new, unused, unwrapped toy as a ticket to ride aboard any of Amtrak California's short-distance trains -- Capitols, San Joaquins and San Diegans only -- on December 13 and 14.
For more info see the Amtrak press release at: http://www.amtrak.com:80/amtrak/news/press/atk97.244.html
Up to two children, aged 2-15, accompanied by a paying adult, may use a new, unused, unwrapped toy as a ticket to ride aboard Amtrak's Cascadia and Mount Adams trains on December 13- 14.
Santa will give his reindeer a rest and join the children on the Seattle-Portland- Eugene Cascadia trains 750 and 751 (between Portland and Seattle only), and on the Seattle- Portland Mount Adams trains 752 and 753.
For more info see the Amtrak press release at: http://www.amtrak.com:80/amtrak/news/press/atk97.243.html
CLINTON SIGNS AMTRAK BILL--December 2, 1997. Although there was never any doubt about it, President Clinton today made if official and signed the Amtrak Reathorization bill that was passed by Congress last month. In a statement, Amtrak President Thomas M. Downs said, "This reauthorization will give Amtrak something it has never had, the ability to plan for the future. Amtrak will now be eligible to receive more than two billion dollars in capital investment funds to supplement annual capital appropriations from Congress. With these funds and adequate annual operating and capital appropriations, Amtrak will begin to reverse 26 years of undercapitalization which will help improve productivity, lower expenses, increase revenues and spur continued ridership growth."
BNSF APPROVES AMTRAK EXPRESS AT 90 MPH--November 22, 1997. CHICAGO -- Amtraks new fleet of 60-foot express cars have been approved by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) for operation at speeds up to 90 mph between Chicago and Los Angeles on the Southwest Chief. This approval involves more than 500 units.
Achieving speeds of up to 90 mph, Amtrak Express service is highly competitive with the highway transit times, on-time performance and reliability of truck transportation in most service lanes. In the case of solo-driven trucks, Amtrak Express service is typically faster at a more economical cost; and in many lanes Amtrak's travel times are actually comparable with two-man teams and offer even greater cost savings while maintaining the highest levels of reliability.
AMTRAK NAMES NEW INTERCITY SBU BRASS--November 22, 1997. CHICAGO -- Amtrak has announced the promotion of Edwin E. Ellis to Vice President, Mail and Express and appointed key members of his team to be based at the Amtrak Intercity business unit in Chicago. Ellis joined Amtrak Intercity last year as Senior Director, Mail and Express Business Development.
Named as Director of Marketing for the mail and express product is Stephen P. Schott, who most recently served as Director of Marketing for the Intermodal Business Group of Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Corp. Schott assumes responsibilities for developing and implementing marketing strategies for the organization's long-haul, door-to-door high-speed express cargo service.
n addition to Schott, Ellis appointed Tracy K. Davis as Director of Services Support for the Amtrak Mail and Express product.
WASHINGTON -- Amtrak's fourth quarter ridership for Fiscal Year (FY) 1997, (July, Aug, Sept.) jumped 5.5 percent compared to the same period in FY 1996, resulting in a 2.6 percent overall increase for the fiscal year.
Amtrak's premium Metroliner service broke all prior annual ridership records, transporting over 2,081,326 passengers in FY 97, an increase of 3.5 percent. The Raleigh-to-Charlotte, N.C., Piedmont achieved a 49 percent increase and the Los Angeles-Seattle Coast Starlight finished the fiscal year with a 23.7 percent increase in ridership.
Amtrak's ridership increase is attributed to effective implementation of its strategic business plan. The plan shifted resources and restored daily service to routes having greatest growth potential. It realized increased support for key state-funded routes, and achieved improvements in on-board amenities tailored to regional customer preferences.
"These numbers are extremely encouraging. They are a direct result of Amtrak's determination to provide our customers with top quality services that are specific to their needs," said Amtrak Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas M. Downs.
The Northeast Corridor (NEC), encompassing Amtrak service from New England to Virginia, achieved a five percent ridership increase in the fourth quarter of FY97. For the fiscal year, NEC ridership was up one percent. In addition to Metroliners posting all-time highs, the Empire and Keystone Corridors, two fast growing corridors in the Northeast, saw increases of eight percent and 26.4 percent respectively, over FY96 numbers.
The Amtrak Intercity business unit, which operates most of the corporation's long-distance train service as well as shorter distance service to and from Chicago, posted a 2.1 percent increase in the fourth quarter of FY97. Fiscal year ridership in Amtrak Intercity was up 1.4 percent overall.
Following the state-supported Piedmont's huge gain of 49 percent in ridership, the Chicago-Grand Rapids, Mich., Pere Marquette soared 21.7 percent, the Kansas City-St. Louis corridor ridership rose 19 percent, and the Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawathas rose by nearly 13 percent.
Long-distance trains posting big gains were the Chicago-Emeryville California Zephyr (30.3 percent); New York-New Orleans Crescent (12.4 percent); the Chicago-Seatle/Portland Empire Builder (11.7 percent); the Chicago-New Orleans C city of New Orleans (8 percent); and the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief (9 percent).
Amtrak West, operating state-supported corridor services and the long-distance Coast Starlight in California, Oregon and Washington, experienced an 11.6 percent increase in ridership for the fourth quarter, and a 10.6 percent improvement for the year. The Coast Starlight posted a significant increase of 29 percent for the quarter and 23.7 percent in FY 97.
The Oakland-Bakersfield, Calif., San Joaquins rose 21.2 percent and the Roseville/Sacramento-Oakland-San Jose, Calif., Capitols posted an increase of 7.6 percent, while the San Diego-Los Angeles-Santa Barbara/San Luis Obispo San Diegans increased 4.4 percent, the highest in four years.
House Transportation Chairman Faces Ethics Probe--November 15, 1997. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bud Shuster (R-PA) is the subject of an investigation by the House Ethics committee. The investigation surrounds a possible conflict of interest involving lobbyists for highway funding as well as the alleged improper use of campaign funds involving a powerful highway lobbyist.
According to reports, Ann Eppard Associates, a professional lobbyist firm, received $1.1 million from 17 clients in 1996 and another $740,000 from 23 active clients during the first six months of this year. Ann Eppard Associates specializes in issues before Shuster's transportation committee.
As it turns out Ann Eppard also served as Shuster's chief of staff for 22 years. Under Shuster's leadership, Congress this week passed a $9.7 billion funding bill that will keep state highway programs operating for another six months. Eleven clients signed up in 1997 by Ann Eppard Associates, cited the new highway bill as a subject matter for her lobbying.
In addition, Ms. Eppard served as assistant treasurer for Shuster's campaign, receiving $3,000-a-month consulting fee for her campaign work. She reportedly helped him raise $1.7 million since 1995, much of it from the transportation industry. Information I have from Project Vote Smart indicates that Shuster received $135,150.00 from transportation PACs alone from January 1, 1995 to October 16, 1996. In his home state of Pennsylvania there now exists a four lane, 53 mile road known as The Bud Shuster Highway. Another Bud Shuster Byway bypasses the small town of Everett where Shuster resides.
AMTRAK VP RESIGNS--November 15, 1997. Robert Vanderclute , VP of Operations at Amtrak resigned effective November 14 after 26 years of service at Amtrak. Vanderclute was widely respected both within Amtrak and outside of the company and especially among many of the middle management veteran employees at the railroad.
Shuster Applauds Amtrak Reauthorization Agreement--November 18, 1997. Washington -- Stating that "This bipartisan reform bill removes Amtrak from its crippling statutory straitjacket and allows the company a chance to operate on a more business-like basis," Congressman Bud Shuster (R-PA), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee today applauded House passage of an amendment to S. 738, legislation which would fundamentally reform and reauthorize Amtrak, the nation's passenger railroad. Upon passage by the Senate, the bill will go to the President for his signature.
"Passage of this bill demonstrates our resolve to fundamentally reform Amtrak and give it a chance to survive. This is solid legislation that is the product of all the parties --- labor, management, and Members -- sitting down and hammering out a fair and reasonable compromise," said Shuster.
United Transportation Union proposes opening contract
negotiations directly with Amtrak West - November 17, 1997.
from UTU press release.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- In an unprecedented move, UTU International Assistant President Byron Boyd proposed opening contract talks with Amtrak West to break the two-year-old Washington logjam.
"It's clear that we need to get away from Washington in order to get something done. We need to sit down with Amtrak's individual business units and create solutions that make sense. Nothing is getting done by Amtrak management in Washington, but we can get it done here," said Boyd. "I'm convinced that we can reach an agreement if we begin right here in California and stay clear of the Washington mentality."
UTU International President Charles L. Little vowed recently to stand firm to protect work rules. Little said that the UTU would never agree to the sort of work rule changes with Amtrak that the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees (BMWE) agreed to in exchange for increased wages.
The BMWE agreed to $7 million in unspecified work rule changes over the life of the three-year contract, and an additional $6 million to be negotiated later with Amtrak. The BMWE represents 2,300 Amtrak workers
LAWSUIT FILED TO SAVE SAN ANTONIO STATION--November 15, 1997. A citizen lawsuit was filed last week by Michael Idrogo seeking a court order to stop renovation of the 1902 San Antonio, TX railroad depot so it can continue serving as a train station. The lawsuit alleges that VIA Metropolitan Transit violated state law when it "kicked out" Amtrak. Late last year, VIA moved Amtrak's passenger operations from inside the depot, where it had served the public for more than 20 years, to a temporary, $76,000 aluminum structure next to the depot.
Updated Thursday, Nov. 13, 11:00 p.m. ET - Tonight the House passed the Amtrak Reauthorization bill. Within hours the same legislation was passed by the Senate. The bill now goes to the President who is expected to sign it. Approval of the Amtrak Reauthorization bill now frees up the $2.3 billion in capital funding passed by Congress as part of the tax fairness act passed this summer.
I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all of you. Your efforts paid off. I am told by Congressional staffers that the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee was inundated with phone calls from all parts of the country all day long. Thank you.
November 13, 1997, 4:00 PM ET -- A bipartisan agreement on the Amtrak Board of Directors provision in the House version of the Amtrak Reauthorization bill has been reached. Leaders are now, at this moment, meeting behind doors to work out the final details of the plan. I fully expect a vote on the Reauthorization bill sometime today but don't stop calling.
It is VERY important for us to turn up the heat NOW and keep it up. Let Congressional leaders know that you want the House to pass the same Amtrak reauthorization bill that passed in the Senate on Friday. If Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) can craft a bipartisan compromise with the full support of the Senate then so can the GOP House leaders.
Please call the Congressional switchboard (1-202-224-3121 or a toll free number 888-723-5246) and ask to speak to:
The office of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee (Shuster).
Call back and ask to speak to the office of the Speaker of the House (Gingrich).
Call back once again and ask to speak to the office of your own Congressman.
The message is simple. Tell them you support Amtrak and that Amtrak will be bankrupt unless they pass the Reauthorization bill now. Tell them that you want them to pass the very same bipartisan Reauthorization bill that passed in the Senate.
Please call not e-mail! My sense is that our calls are more effective than our e-mail at this point in time.
There was an old saying in Chicago politics often said in gest - "Vote early and often!" Well you only have one vote but you, your family, your friends, and coworkers can call as often as you want. I urge you to get on the phones and call now, call tomorrow morning, tomorrow night and tomorrow evening. Keep calling until we get this legislation passed! Remember, as Friends of Amtrak, we are strong in our numbers.
I thank you for your support.
Your support for Amtrak is critical at this time!
AMTRAK MIDWEST RIDERSHIP UP--November 12, 1997. Amtrak ridership is up by about 10 percent for the recently completed fiscal year on short and medium-distance Midwest corridor trains, including trains operated under contracts with state departments of transportation in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri.
"We are very pleased with progress we have made on these routes in partnership with the states," said Deborah Hare, Senior Director, Government and Public Affairs, Amtrak Intercity. "Aggressive marketing and promotion efforts have proven to be successful and our partnerships with local groups in communities along specific routes are contributing significantly."
UPDATE ON REAUTHORIZATION--November 12, 1997. House GOP transportation committee leaders have just now come from a meeting and have decided not to introduce the Amtrak Reauthorization bill to the House floor for a vote tonight. Congressional sources have just told me that House Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman Bud Shuster (R-PA) sought to amend the bipartisan Senate passed measure by changing the composition of the Amtrak Board of Directors. When Shuster realized that he did not have the votes to get his amendment passed he decided not to introduce the reauthorization bill for a vote by the full House. This is a most distressing development. Nevertheless there is still time since the House will be in session again tomorrow and perhaps on Friday.
Therefore I am hereby designating tomorrow as CALL CONGRESS DAY !
UPDATE ON REAUTHORIZATION BILL--November 11, 1997.
The Senate Friday passed the Amtrak Reauthorization bill. Approval of this bill is necessary for Amtrak to receive the $2.3 billion in capital funding that was passed by Congress this summer as part of the tax fairness act. The reauthorization bill now goes to the House for approval. There are new indications that the House is ready to consider the bill but little time is left as Congress expects to complete its business this week. Passage in the House and reconciliation of any amendments with the Senate version would need to be swift. An e-mail message from the Rules Committee at 9:24 p.m. Sunday said, "we are adding something to the venue. S. 738 Amtrak reform and authorization act."
Here's what you can do NOW:
1. Call Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich at (202) 225-0600 or send e-mail to email@example.com Tell the Speaker that you want the House to pass the Amtrak Reauthorization bill this week!
2. Please call your representative in the U.S. House of Representatives immediately.
To reach the Congressional switchboard call 1-202-224-3121.
There is a toll-free number to the Capitol Hill Switchboard = 888-723-5246.
Ask for the office of your representative in the House. Tell them to support the same compromise Amtrak Reauthorization bill that passed in the Senate on Friday. If your representative is a member of the majority party (Republican) ask him/her to tell Speaker Gingrich and Chairman Shuster to pass the Amtrak Reauthorization bill this week.
If you'd prefer to send e-mail, House e-mail addresses can be found at http://www.house.gov/writerep/
3. You could also contact the Office of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bud Shuster (R-PA). Shuster is responsible for pulling this important piece of legislation from the House floor. You can contact Chairman Shuster at:
Tell Chairman Shuster's office to support the Senate version of the Amtrak Reauthorization bill this week.
SENATE PASSES REAUTHORIZATION BILL--November 7, 1997. The Amtrak Reauthorization bill, S. 738, was passed in a voice vote by the U.S. Senate today, Friday, November 7. The legislation gives Amtrak management and labor six months to negotiate a new severance pay system, after which the current system of six year payments would be terminated. It also phases out after 2000 current rules that prohibit Amtrak from contracting out jobs. In addition the new liability language in the bill provides for a "global cap" of $200 million for all plaintiffs in accident cases.
Passage of the bill brings Amtrak one step closer to being able to access the $2.3 billion in capital funding that was part of the tax bill voted by Congress this summer. The spending measure was made contingent upon approval of the Reauthorization bill. Amtrak spokesman John Wolf told the press that "getting the $2.3 billion shows that Amtrak has the full faith of the government behind it, and that's very important."
A new clause was added to the bill to prohibit Amtrak from using any of the $2.3 billion to pay for wage increases for Amtrak workers.
It remains to be seen what will happen on the House side where Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bud Shuster (R-PA) has blocked a vote on the reauthorization bill by pulling it from the floor. An aide to Shuster reportedly said tonight that the Congressman does not think the Senate bill would fly in the House. According to press reports, Shuster now says that he wants to make drastic changes to Amtrak's board which he considers to be dominated by Democrats. Failure to pass the bill would be devastating to Amtrak.
I urge ALL Amtrak supporters to contact Congressman Shuster and their representatives in Congress. Tell them you want them to pass the Amtrak Reauthorization bill in the House. Tell them to stop playing politics with Amtrak's future.
SHUSTER PULLS HOUSE REAUTHORIZATION BILL--October 26, 1997. House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bud Shuster (R-PA) has pulled the Amtrak Reauthorization Bill - H.R. 2247, off the floor of the House. Shuster made this unprecedented move after the GOP leadership lost a floor battle on an amendment (by Quinn-R-OH) to the bill that would have prevented another amendment (LaTourette-R-OH) more favorable to labor. The vote was 223-195. House GOP leaders have threatened to kill the reauthorization bill if the labor provisions they've supported are amended by a majority vote of the full House. If Shuster does not reintroduce the reauthorization bill Amtrak will lose the $2.3 billion already approved for Amtrak capital expenditure in the tax package approved this summer. Loss of the $2.3 billion would probably result in a complete shut down of Amtrak within six months.
In a statement to the press, Shuster said that the future of Amtrak is "now in jeopardy following the House vote against the (labor) reforms." Referring to the $2.3 billion for capital, Shuster said, "Unfortunately, this much-needed money is now at risk of ever being released."
In a statement released this afternoon, union spokesman J. M. Brunkenhoefer said, "It appears that the Republicans have learned little from shutting down Government if they don't have their way. This time it appears that they just want to shut down Amtrak to punish labor."
U.S. DOT ANNOUNCES AMTRAK AGREEMENT KEEPING COMMUTER LINES RUNNING IN THE EVENT OF A BMWE STRIKE -- October 26, 1997. U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today announced that, responding to his request, Amtrak management and labor have come to agreement on a plan enabling virtually all commuter rail service to continue in the event of an Amtrak shutdown after the Wednesday October 29, 12:01 a.m. deadline. If implemented, the agreement would assure no impact to the approximately 500,000 commuter passengers who could have been affected by an Amtrak shutdown.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has reviewed plans submitted by Amtrak management and labor designed to limit the shutdown to only Amtrak service while maintaining commuter service, and believes that the plans allow for operations in compliance with current regulatory safety requirements. However, Slater cautioned that the FRA will closely monitor commuter operations through several measures, including the placement of safety inspectors throughout the railroads systems. "The safety of the traveling public is my highest priority," said Secretary Slater
AMTRAK INTRODUCES NEW FALL SCHEDULES--October 24, 1997. Amtrak will introduce a new train service schedule for its national rail passenger system on October 26, 1997 The new schedule becomes effective with the change from daylight savings to standard time occurring in most areas of the country.
For the full press release from Amtrak on this CLICK HERE.
AMTRAK OPENS MIAMI METROPOLITAN LOUNGE--October 20, 1997. The Amtrak Station at Miami is the latest facility to feature Amtrak's Metropolitan Lounge. This facility, for the comfort of first class sleeping car passengers, is open now, and will be staffed effective Sunday, October 26.
FRA CRITICAL OF CSX SAFETY MEASURES--October 20, 1997. The
Federal Railroad Administration has released a report critical of CSX
safety practices. Among other things the report finds that CSX's
Central Dispatching Center in Jacksonville, FL is understaffed. It's
dispatchers not adequately familiarized with the area they are
dispatching, and the dispatchers are working excessive overtime. It
also found track and roadbed problems, deteriorating communications
lines along hundreds of miles of track which impacts the
effectiveness if signal systems.
Courtesy Dave Bowe.
AMTRAK IMPROVES NORTHEAST SERVICE FOR BUSINESS, RECREATIONAL TRAVEL --October 14, 1997. Amtrak will offer later Metroliner evening departures on the Northeast Corridor and a new early morning train from Albany into New York City for business travelers, introduce service at two new stations and provide weekend skiers an after-work train on Fridays to the Vermont slopes when it launches a new schedule Oct. 26.
"Demand for Amtrak service throughout the Northeast is on the rise," said George D. Warrington, president of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor. "The demand is coming from business and recreational travelers as well as commuters in a variety of markets where Amtrak provides a competitive alternative to driving or flying. Our new schedule will position Amtrak to take advantage of these market opportunities and attract more riders."
For the text of Amtrak's press release Click Here.
AMTRAK UNVEILS HOURLY HUDSON VALLEY SERVICE; NEW SATURDAY NIGHT TRAIN --October 14, 1997. Amtraks fast-growing Hudson Valley corridor will get five trains every weekday morning heading south to New York City and hourly service all afternoon running north to Albany, as well as a new after-theater train Saturday night from the Big Apple, when a new schedule takes effect Oct. 26.
The new schedule also offers New Yorkers daily service to upstate ski resorts -- such as Lake Placid, an after work ski train on Fridays to the Vermont slopes, a later 7:30 p.m. Metroliner departure to Washington and extra weekend service on the Northeast Corridor. The new schedule will remain in effect for about six months.
For the text of Amtrak's press release Click Here.
AMTRAK ADDS NEW SERVICE TO THE KEYSTONE CORRIDOR--October 14, 1997. Amtrak will introduce Bucks County service by stopping at Cornwells Heights, add more stops in Coatesville and Mt. Joy, and adjust the schedules of some Keystone trains to attract more commuters and business travelers when it introduces a new schedule Oct. 26.
The new schedule, which will remain in effect for six months, also provides for later evening Metroliner service from Philadelphia, additional Sunday service to New York and Washington and an earlier Philadelphia departure on the Twilight Shoreliner in order to get travelers into New York before midnight.
For the full text of the Amtrak press release Click Here.
AMTRAK MAY CHANGE CARDINAL OPERATIONS - Updated - October 14, 1997. I have received information that on 10/28/97 Amtrak train crews will operate the Cardinal (train#50/51) from Chicago to Cincinnati. This is a change in that the CSX train crews took the train from Indiana to the east. This could save Amtrak a projected $600,000 per year and there is talk about the Cardinal running daily if express service in Cincinnati grows. However, I have since learned that the state of Indiana may be a major roadblock to a daily Cardinal. Sources tell me that Ohio is now prepared to provide the funding needed but that Indiana has balked. Other states have threatened to withhold support or reduce existing funding if Indiana does not contribute.
AMTRAK STRIKE COULD HAVE MAJOR IMPACT Shutdown could cripple Northeast Corridor travel -- October 14, 1997--From Amtrak.
WASHINGTON -- A threatened strike against Amtrak by one of its unions could endanger the future of the intercity passenger service and devastate commuter traffic in the Northeast Corridor from Richmond to Boston to an extent the nation has not experienced before. Seven major commuter services, serving nearly one-half million passengers daily, are operated by Amtrak in the corridor, or use its right of way.
No airline or freight strike has come close to disrupting commerce the way a forced disruption of the Northeast Corridor could," said Tom Downs, president of America's passenger railroad. "The absence of commuter rail capacity and Amtrak service would overwhelm highway and airline capacity, likely bringing many regions to near standstill." Further, the passenger service disruption would be devastating to Amtrak's finances.
Amtrak service in other parts of the country, as well as commuter railroads using Amtrak staff or facilities in the Midwest and California, could also be affected by a strike. In regions where the tracks are not owned or maintained by Amtrak, service is less likely to be affected.
For the full text of this press release from Amtrak Click Here.
AMTRAK TO EXPAND CHICAGO TO L.A. SERVICE--October 10, 1997. Amtrak plans to begin operating a fourth train weekly between Chicago and Los Angeles via Texas and the Southwest, effective Feb. 6. Amtrak currently provides service three-days-weekly between Chicago and San Antonio on the Amtrak Texas Eagle route and service three- days-weekly between San Antonio and Los Angeles on the Amtrak Sunset Limited route.
The fourth train weekly will operate as a through train providing direct service to points along the entire 2,726-mile route. On the current three- days-weekly service, passengers who wish to connect between the Texas Eagle and the Sunset Limited can transfer in San Antonio.
Amtrak is able to expand operation of the service because its express business is growing and prospects for its future customer growth warrant the expansion.
SILVER STAR - TRACTOR TRAILER IN ACCIDENT AT CROSSING -- CSX FAILS TO NOTIFY CORRECT DISPATCHER TO AVOID ACCIDENT -- October 10, 1997. Amtrak's Silver Star was involved in an accident on Thursday, October 9 when a tractor trailer truck got stuck at a crossing near Savannah, GA. Reports are that police notified CSX, which owns the tracks there, about 20 minutes before the Amtrak train arrived but that CSX then notified the wrong dispatcher. Ten passengers and engineers were treated at hospitals in nearby Savannah, but none had life-threatening injuries, spokesmen at the hospitals said. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.
AMTRAK - BMWE TALKS RESUME -- October 10, 1997. Amtrak and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Union (BMWE) have resumed talks in the hopes of avoiding a strike. These are the first talks in a month although union officials reportedly said there was little progress made. The union can strike after Oct. 22, when a federally imposed cooling-off period ends.
GEC ALSTHOM - AMTRAK AGREEMENT -- October 9, 1997. GEC ALSTHOM has won an order to supply AMTRAK with an Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System (ACSES) for a 145 miles-long section of the North East Corridor line between Boston and New Haven. ACSES is derived from the transponder-based train control system in use throughout Europe.
NTSB BLAMES AMTRAK FOR NJ DERAILMENT--October 9, 1997. The National Transportation Safety Board has blamed Amtrak for a derailment on the Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River in Secaucus NJ that injured 44 people last November. Investigators traced the derailment to problems in the design, materials and operation of the pivoting bridge resulting in cracks that Amtrak knew about at least 10 months in advance. Amtrak decided to weld the cracks rather than make more extensive repairs. "There seems to be something of a pattern of doing things not in the interest necessarily of safety, but in the interest of facilitating traffic or reducing expenses," said board vice chairman Robert T. Francis.
EMPIRE BUILDER RIDERSHIP UP SIGNIFICANTLY - October 3, 1997. The return to daily Amtrak service in May 1997, by the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder has been successful. Customers are responding favorably to the restoration of daily service along the scenic route, with ridership improving in each of the four months since daily service was restored on May 11, 1997.
In May, 29,723 passengers rode the Empire Builder, an increase of 7.6 percent over the previous May. In June, the first full month of daily service, ridership was 38,518, up 27.2 percent; in July ridership was 44,460, up 31.8 percent; and August ridership was 44,469, up 25.5 percent over Aug. 1996. Ridership on the train, which had been trending upward before the resumption of daily service, is up nearly 10 percent for the 11 months between October 1996, and August 1997.
"More customers are responding because they now can be assured of service every day," said Gary Erford, Empire Builder product line director. "We're offering more efficient service which better meets their needs."
SURFACE TRANSPORTATION BOARD TO INVESTIGATE AMTRAK-UNION PACIFIC DISPUTE - October 1, 1997. In a dispute between the Union Pacific Railroad and Amtrak, the Surface Transportation Board has told Union Pacific to continue making its rail tracks available for passenger service while it sorts out the differences. Board Chairman Linda Morgan said the board would initiate proceedings to determine to what extent Union Pacific was obliged to let Amtrak use its facilities for express services.
Union Pacific argues that Amtrak is carrying general freight and not "express" in violation of law, thus competing with UP for freight business on UP's own tracks. Amtrak says that it is pursuing "express" business to increase its revenues. Amtrak is authorized by law to carry mail and "express" in addition to passengers. Freight railroads must also permit Amtrak to operate over their lines.
The question is what constitutes "express" shipments. Morgan said in a statement that part of the problem was that the law did not define the word "express." Meanwhile the Surface Transportation Board has set a limit of 18 cars including 9 express cars that Amtrak will be allowed to operate on Union Pacific lines.
Amtrak requested that the Surface Transportation Board, an arm of the Transportation Department, resolve the dispute.
AMTRAK CELEBRATES SUCCESS OF TWILIGHT SHORELINER - October 1, 1997. A new overnight train Amtrak launched in July between Boston, New York, Washington and Virginia is off to a fast start, substantially outperforming its ridership and revenue projections. To help celebrate, Amtrak is offering customers of the new Twilight Shoreliner a 50 percent discount to upgrade to Custom Class service.
Through August, the Twilight Shoreliner carried nearly 46,000 passengers - 9,100 more than expected - and was beating revenue projections by $21,000 a day. Comparisons with an overnight train run the year before on the Northeast Corridor are even more dramatic with the Twilight Shoreliner carrying 28 percent more riders and earning 36 percent more revenue.
For the full text of the press release from Amtrak CLICK HERE.
DELAWARE GOV. WARNS OF AMTRAK STRIKE - October 1, 1997. Tom Carper, the Governor of Delaware and a member of Amtrak's board, has warned the governors of nine Northeastern states that they could face trouble if Amtrak's employees go on strike in October. "The rubber could hit the road October 21, and we could have calamity up and down the (Northeast Coast) corridor," Carper said.
The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees (BMWE) has been working without a contract for over two years. A recent non-binding decision by the Presidential Emergency Board has been rejected by Amtrak because it does not have the funding to pay the workers at the same level comparable workers are paid by the private freight railroads. "We simply do not have the ability to pay what the freights are paying their employees," Carper said.
Carper also urged the Coalition of Northeastern Governors to push Congress for passage of an Amtrak reauthorization bill. The House is expected to consider the Amtrak authoritzation bill next week. Carper said Amtrak's survival depends on its ability to use a $2.3 billion capital trust fund approved by Congress, which it is not allowed to tap into without passage of a reauthorization bill.
PRESIDENTIAL EMERGENCY BOARD REPORT FILED ON AMTRAK-BMWE DISPUTE --September 22, 1997. The Emergency Board appointed by President Clinton to investigate the labor dispute between Amtrak and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees (BMWE) has submitted its recommendations to the President. In effect the panel has recommended a series of 3.5% annual wage increases for the years 1995 through 2000, along with a series of other lump-sum payments, for the 2,300 Amtrak employees represented by the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees.
Amtrak said that it is disappointed that the Board's recommendations provide no basis for a negotiated settlement and threaten the company's survival. "The Board's recommendations assume that by simply making Congress aware of the costs of a generous settlement, Congress will provide funding," said Tom Downs, Amtrak's chairman, president and chief executive officer. "In fact, Congress is well aware of Amtrak's financial needs and has been insisting on reforms to allow for reduced costs." Amtrak's reauthorization and funding are stalled over the inability of Congress and the White House to agree on the nature of those reforms.
What follows now is a 30 day cooling off period in which both sides are urged to consider the recommendations as a basis for a settlement. After 12:01 on October 22, the union is free to strike and Amtrak is free to lock out the workers or change the conditions of employment. Congress could also impose a settlement through legislation.
SENATE MAY INCLUDE AMTRAK IN ISTEA RENEWAL--September 15, 1997. Legislation drafted in the Senate will include Amtrak in the ISTEA renewal bill. This would allow states to have the "flexibility" to decide whether or not they would like to spend the surface transportation funds on Amtrak. This is at odds with a House bill (see below) and, if both bills pass in their current forms, they would have to be reconciled by a joint House and Senate panel of Conferees.
FRA RELEASES REPORT ON UNION PACIFIC RR--September 14, 1997. The Federal Railroad Administration on Wednesday Sept. 10th said that Union Pacific has experienced "a fundamental breakdown in basic railroad operating procedures and practices essential to a safe operation." Eighty FRA inspectors just finished a seventeen- day safety inspection of UP after several fatal freight accidents. The inspectors found evidence of "harassment and intimidation" of employees, overworking of crews, dispatchers and inadequate training.
MARK CANE RESIGNS--September 12, 1997. Mark Cane, the president of the Amtrak Intercity Business Unit will resign October 1st. Lee Bullock has been named interim President. Bullock is the current Vice President of Customer Services in Chicago and has been with Amtrak for 24 years.
GUILFORD TRANSPORTATION SUES RAIL AUTHOR FRANK WILNER--September 12, 1997. A federal judge heard arguments on Monday Sept 8th in the case of Guilford Transportation Industries has bought against Frank Wilner - the author and former Surface Transportation Board official. Guilford and its owners - Timothy Mellon and Donald Fink claim Wilner defamed him in a column which appeared in the JOURNAL OF COMMERCE on June 2nd dealing with Amtrak's difficulties in starting passenger service on Guilford's line to Portland, Maine. Guilford and Amtrak are engaged in a dispute before the STB on that topic right now. Guilford says that Wilner's position at the STB at the time would have hurt its case as well as its proposal to purchase the Northeast Corridor, a proposal most observers do not take seriously.
HOUSE TRANSPORTATION SUBCOMMITTEE PASSES BESTEA - NO FLEXIBILITY FOR AMTRAK--September 11, 1997. The Surface Transportation Subcommittee of The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has passed an ISTEA renewal bill known as BESTEA or "BUILDING EFFICIENT SURFACE TRANSPORTATION AND EQUITY ACT OF 1997". The bad news here for Amtrak is that BESTEA does NOT allow states the flexibility to spend these surface transportation funds on Amtrak!
LOTT MAY HOLD AMTRAK REAUTHORIZATION HOSTAGE-- September 9, 1997. Amtrak funding may be held hostage in partisan politics as usual on Capitol Hill. According to the AP and the Washington Post, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) has said that "If they (referring to Democrats) play these games, I have many options at my disposal." Included among them are "shelving an Amtrak reauthorization bill popular among Democrats." Lott insists that this is not a threat but that he wants to put Democrats on notice that they will "pay a price."
Amtrak cannot access the $2.3 billion tax refund measure without approval of the reauthorization bill. Democrats and Republicans are already sqaubbling over labor language in the bill.
Lott maintains that Democrats are using obstructionist tactics to force conclusion of a probe into the 1996 election of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).
What does this have to do with Amtrak?
UTU CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION OF AMTRAK MANAGEMENT--September 2, 1997. CLEVELAND - With Amtrak in crisis and an early September strike possible, United Transportation Union International President Charles L. Little has called for a major governmental investigation and review of Amtrak management practices.
"The reason Amtrak is in this deep crisis is because of its leadership-or lack of it," said Little. "If Amtrak doesn't do what it must to preserve and protect our national passenger rail system for the American rail passenger and worker, then we will."
"Republicans in the House and Senate have been pushing Amtrak reform legislation that would remove job protections for labor. The Amtrak Reauthorization and Reform Act would eliminate Amtrak's prohibition on contracting out. Amtrak wants this in order to potentially layoff its entire clerical, track signal and mechanical forces so it can use non-union labor."
"For these and other reasons, UTU is opposed to this bill," said National Legislative Director James Brunkenhoefer.
The full text of this statement can be found at: http://www.utu.org/2-amtrk1.htm
AMTRAK CREATES NEW ZONE STRUCTURE FOR EXPLORE AMERICA FARES-- August 27, 1997. Effective August 29, 1997, the structure of the Amtrak Explore America Fare will be changed. Two significant adjustments will occur on that date.
First, the boundary between the Eastern and Central Zones will be moved Eastward, decreasing the size of the Eastern Zone and increasing the size of the Central Zone. Currently this boundary follows the route of The City of New Orleans. The new boundary will pass through Port Huron, Detroit, Toledo, Fostoria, Cincinnati, Atlanta and Pensecola.
Second, the Eastern Zone itself will be divided into two parts. There will be an Eastern Zone North which is all of the Eastern Zone North of Savannah and there will be a Florida Zone including all points in the Eastern Zone South of Savannah. Savannah itself will reside in both Zones.
Please note that this information is NOT officially from Amtrak!
TEXAS EAGLE RESERVATIONS NOW BEING ACCEPTED PAST OCTOBER --August 27, 1997. Texas Eagle riders are now able to book reservations on Amtrak past the October hold that Amtrak had in its reservation system. Word came out late yesterday that reservations are being accepted on the Texas Eagle past October and that the Texas Eagle is now being treated the same as other Amtrak trains as far as reservations go.
CLINTON APPOINTS EMERGENCY BOARD ON BMWE STRIKE POSSIBILITY-- August 22, 1997. President Clinton, under the terms of the Railway Labor Act, appointed a three-member Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to examine the dispute between Amtrak and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes (BMWE).
A 30-day cooling-off period had begun August 4 when the BMWE rejected an option of binding arbitration, after many months of contract negotiations. Amtrak and BMWE would have been free to resort to "self-help" September 5 (i.e., Amtrak could impose new work rules and BMWE could strike). President Clinton's action today wipes out that 30-day cooling-off period.
Instead, the PEB now has 30 days to make recommendations, followed by another 30-day cooling-off period. That would make the 60th day (with August 22 day number one) October 20. Only at the end of that period can the parties resort to self-help, provided they do not reach an agreement by then.
If the BMWE does strike October 21 or thereafter, Congress can act to end it. The disruption of travel for over 500,000 intercity and commuter passengers would provide an incentive for Congressional involvement. In the past several years, during national railroad strikes, Congress has taken from one to four days to end a strike.
BMWE STRIKE A POSSIBILITY--August 20, 1997. The Journal of Commerce on Monday said that the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees has not been able to reach an agreement with Amtrak and will be free to strike on Sept. 4. President Clinton would need to appoint an emergency board in order for that not to happen. Because of Amtrak's funding not having been resolved, it is quite likely the president will appoint a board.
BOSTON TO PORTLAND UPDATE--August 20, 1997. The Surface Transportation Board has given both Guilford Transportation and Amtrak an extension in the continuing dispute over a passenger rail line from Boston to Portland, ME. The proceedings are expected to close on August 26th with the STB issuing a ruling in a "timely" manner. Don't expect to hear anything before Labor Day and probably not until sometime late September.
FRA Awards Oregon DOT $5.2 Million For Trackwork--August 18, 1997. On Wednesday August 13th, the Federal Railroad Administration awarded $5.2 million to the Oregon DOT for track work between Eugene and Vancouver, Washington, which is part of an ISTEA-designated high-speed corridor.
UNION PACIFIC TAKES FIRE AT AMTRAK--August 12, 1997. "Midwest Rail Magazine" has an article called "Amtrak Express Business Angers Union Pacific" which you may find of interest. The article is copyrighted so if you are interested you can find it on the internet at: http://www.mwrail.pair.com/mwrhot.html
Just scroll down the page a bit and you'll find it.
Essentially the "Magazine" quotes an "Omaha World Herald" article of July 30. It indicates that Union Pacific believes that Amtrak is in violation of its own federal charter prohibiting it from carrying freight. Amtrak is authorized to haul "passengers, mail and express cargo." The hitch comes in the definition of what is "express cargo." Amtrak is hauling cargo on many of its routes and expects to add 900 new freight cars to its fleet by winter. According to the Wall Street Journal Amtrak has been hauling items such as beer, envelopes, coiled steel, soft drinks, truck-brake parts, canned pineapple and cranberry juice.
U.S. BECOMING MORE OIL/AUTO DEPENDENT--August 12, 1997. The "New York Times" reported in a cover story yesterday that American drivers are consuming record quantities of gasoline so far this year, with about half refined from imported oil." The article goes on to assert that as a nation the U.S. has become more dependent upon foreign oil and that any sharp increase in gas prices would have a big impact on the economy. According to the article Americans are also driving more less fuel efficient cars and driving more every year. Oil imports now make up 50% of the consumption as compared to 36% of the oil supply at the time of the major 1973 oil crisis.
CLINTON WON'T VETO AMTRAK PACKAGE--August 12, 1997. Despite widespread and unfounded speculation by the press, President Clinton will NOT veto a $2.3 billion tax refund bill for Amtrak.
NEW HOUSE RAIL SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIRMAN UNDER FIRE-- August 12, 1997. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee member Jay Kim (R-CA) has pleaded GUILTY to misdemeanor violations of campaign finance. Kim was brought to the chairmanship of the Railroad Subcommittee replacing Susan Molinari (R-NY) who has resigned to work for CBS News. Some viewed that with apprehension since Kim has often said he had no use for Amtrak and that Maglev trains and supposedly private highways can do it all. A misdemeanor is not enough to keep Kim from being railroad chairman but the Journal of Commerce also has said Kim has said he would not necessarily be guided by party leadership on issues the subcommittee would face. That could keep him out of the job. The paper also reported that Bob Franks (R/NJ) and Jack Quinn (R/NY) are interested in the job.
BMWE LABOR TALKS BREAK DOWN--August 12, 1997. The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees (BMWE) had rejected arbitration for its contract talks with Amtrak and so on Tuesday August 5th, the National Labor Relation Mediation Board suspended its mediations between the two parties. This starts a 30 day cooling-off period. Starting September 5th, A) the workers could strike, B) Amtrak could impose new work rules, or C) the President could appoint a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to study the dispute for another 30 days.
ISTEA UPDATE --August 12, 1997. The ISTEA, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (pronounced ICE-TEA), Reauthorization process has been pretty much stalled all summer long. That was still the case in the Senate leading into the summer recess that began August 2nd. However, there was a little movement in the House during the last week of July. House Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman Bud Shuster (R-PA) and other committee leaders met and agreed to a general outline for a House bill. It would be a three-year bill, but drawing down (aka spending) all five years worth of budget authority contained in the 1997 budget agreement. It reportedly would retain ISTEA's present structure which would not be good for Amtrak because current law does not include provisions for states to use this money for intercity passenger rail, i.e. Amtrak.
This law is totally separate from the "half-cent" legislation pending on Capitol Hill.
Senators Roth (R-DE) and Biden (D-DE) have in the past tried to include "flexibility" language, thus allowing states the flexibility to spend part of their gas tax revenue for passenger rail, but have not succeeded.
Committee leaders have left staffers with instructions for drafting a bill which should be ready for general review by the last week of August and Shuster hopes to have the subcommittee mark-up the second week of September and full committee mark-up the third week. That doesn't leave much time for final enactment in the House much less the Senate by ISTEA's September 30th expiration. However, there was a similar gap back in 1991 when ISTEA legislation was not signed by President Bush until December of that year. It is important that members of the House Transporta- tion & Infrastructure Committee understand that they need to give states the power to spend federal transportation money in intercity passenger rail.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Call or write your representatives in the House and Senate and tell them that you want them to vote for a reauthorization of ISTEA that allows states to use funds for Amtrak.
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE - WHERE WE STAND--August 12, 1997.
The 1997 Tax Fairness Act included a $2.3 billion reserve fund for Amtrak capital. That's good. Amtrak may not use the money unless a Reauthorization bill is also passed.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved Chairman Shuster's Amtrak reauthorization bill for the House, (HR 2247). It is good that some sort of reauthorization bill is moving forward in the House. Amtrak labor opposes the "reform" provisions of this act however. A floor vote in the House is expected after Labor Day.
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has approved a Reauthorization bill in the Senate, S.738. This is the companion legislation to the House measure above. It is good that there is an authorization bill moving forward in the Senate but certain labor "reform" provision of this bill are also opposed by Amtrak labor. A floor vote in the Senate is expected after Labor Day.
The Senate has passed a 1998 Transportation funding bill S.1048 which includes restoration of the $61 million for mandatory payments (i.e. retirement, etc...) That's good.
The House has passed a 1998 Transportation funding bill, HR.2169, which does not include the $61 million in mandatory payments which would mean that the payments would have to come out of the Operations budget. This is NOT good.
House and Senate conferees will meet after Labor Day to reconcile the differences. WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW: Let your representatives in the House know that the $61 million restoration for mandatory payments is critical.
HOUSE COMMITTEE PASSES AMTRAK REAUTHORIZATION BILL-- July 30, 1997. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has approved an Amtrak reauthorization bill backed by Chairman Bud Shuster, HR.2247, that includes labor "reform" provisions, a new board of directors and review of the blue ribbon panel's recommendation to split Amtrak up. The bill was approved 36-30 and was opposed by Democrats on the Committee who proposed a similar version without the labor "reform" provisions. The full House is not expected to vote on the measure until after the Labor Day recess. The recent approval of the $2.3 billion capital trust fund for Amtrak is contingent upon the enactment of a reauthorization (reform) bill. An attempt to include a reauthorization bill as part of the overall budget/tax package failed on Tuesday.
TEXAS EAGLE GETS EXTENSION--July 28, 1997. Sunday's edition of the "Arkansas Democrat-Gazette" carried an A.P. story out of Dallas that said, "Texas Eagle gets reprieve, will operate past September."
Marc Magliari, a spokesperson for Amtrak, said: "It was the actions of the state of Texas and continued support by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and the mayors along the line who build ridership that enabled this to happen. Amtrak decided to keep running the train indefinitely, well past the September funding limit."
HOUSE & SENATE CONFEREES REJECT THE HALF-CENT - REACH AGREEMENT ON ALTERNATIVE FUNDING MEASURE --July 27, 1997. House and Senate Conferees have reached an agreement on the budget package and it will not include the half-cent for Amtrak. Amtrak has requested that one-half cent of the existing gas tax be allocated for capital expenditures. The half-cent legislation passed in the Senate earlier but was not included in the House bill.
Conferees instead agreed upon a dedicated source of capital funding amounting to $2.3 billion over 2 years intended to replace the half-cent. The funding will come from a rather complicated tax refund formula called "net operating loss carryback." Because Amtrak has never made a profit and never paid taxes, the refund will be linked to taxes paid prior to 1971 by Amtrak's predecessor railroads. Release of funds by the Treasury Department, which has control because this is a tax refund, is dependent on an authorization.
S.738, The Amtrak Reauthorization and Reform Act in the Senate, will probably not be taken up until after Labor Day.
BICYCLES ON THE CARDINAL--July 26, 1997. Bicyclists wanting to take advantage of West Virginia's outstanding natural beauty in the New River Gorge, ride along the Ohio River in Kentucky, Ohio or Indiana, or see the Potomac River in Virginia, will be able to use the Amtrak Cardinal without having to disassemble their bikes, in a test program effective Aug. 1.
Ordinarily, bicycles must be disassembled, placed in boxes and checked as baggage to be carried on long-distance trains. However, as a demonstration, Amtrak will accept up to four bicycles per train on the Cardinal, one of the most scenic routes in the national railroad passenger system. The bikes can be rolled on to the train from any station along the Cardinal's route and stored in special racks in the lower level of a Superliner coach.
HOUSE PASSES TRANSPORTATION BILL - SLASHES AMTRAK OPERATIONS --July 24, 1997. The House of Representatives has passed a $42 billion transportation bill for FY 1998 that would severely cut Amtrak's operations budget. The Amtrak funding level was the only issue in dispute as lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the package by a vote of 424 - 5. Ranking Democrat Martin Sabo (MN) of the Transportation Committee said that the Amtrak appropriation is "so low that it brings into question whether Amtrak will survive the year." In contrast Republican subcommittee chairman Frank Wolf (VA), architect of last year's disastrous 28% House cut, said that "funding alone is not the panacea for Amtrak's financial problems." The cuts enacted in the last session led to Amtrak's decision to terminate the Desert Wind and the Pioneer. Lawmakers have warned that the House bill could force Amtrak into bankruptcy.
The House bill significantly boosts funding for aviation and highway safety programs, providing $12.5 billion in new spending and allowing the spending of $30 billion from federal transportation trust funds. The funding measure gives $3.9 billion to the Coast Guard, $9 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration and $21.5 billion for road and highway improvements. The FAA budget includes funding for 500 new air traffic controllers and 326 safety certification employees. Another $333 million was allocated for highway safety and air bag safety initiatives. Those who argue that Amtrak is the only subsidized form of transportation need to take a long hard look at where their taxpayer dollars are really going.
The total Amtrak budget was set at $793 million. Capital funding for Amtrak is up but the operations side is the lowest in 20 years and is $61 million less than the administration wanted. Senate/House conferees must work out the differences before a final transportation bill is sent to the President for his signature.
SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE RESTORES $61 MILLION--July 22, 1997. The NARP is reporting tonight that the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved an amendment that would restore $61 million to the Amtrak budget. The amendment, offered by Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ), will bring Amtrak funding for Operations to the same level requested by the Clinton Administration. This is still $42 million below what Amtrak requested. The additional funding is for mandatory retirement and unemployment payments that would have to be made even if Amtrak didn't exist.
Today's measure passed by a voice vote despite statements by the Committee Chair Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) that his committee had already provided a "generous funding level for Amtrak." While not attempting to block the amendment, Shelby disputed the need for the additional $61 million and admitted that he is "not a big friend of Amtrak." Senator Faircloth (R-NC) suggested that the government just buy airline tickets for all the people who ride Amtrak!
Senators Hutchison (R-TX), Domenici (R-NM) and Dorgan (D-ND) all spoke up in favor of the Lautenberg amendment but indicating that their support would be tied to Amtrak "reforms." Domenici noted that labor rules are "crippling" the organization.
Senator Hutchison took the opportunity to push S.738, the Amtrak Reform And Accountability Act of 1997 that she has sponsored. Any reauthorization measure passed by the Senate would have to be reconciled with one that would come before the House. In the last session the House passed a reauthorization bill offered by Representative Bud Shuster (R-PA) -see below- but the Senate did not. It is important to note that the House bill that passed in the last session enjoyed considerable labor support while the current Senate bill appears to be lacking such support.
SUNSET LTD. TO ORLANDO--July 19, 1997 - Updated Aug. 25, 1997--Amtrak will extend the Sunset Ltd. to Orlando, Florida starting with the July 27th departure from Los Angeles and the July 31st departure from Orlando. In addition to Orlando, a stop in Winter Park, Fla., has also been restored to the train's schedule. Also effective this month, Amtrak has revised the Sunset Limited's schedule between San Antonio, Texas, and Jacksonville, Fla., including a reduction in the train's time spent in New Orleans from three hours to one. For more info see the Amtrak press release at: http://www.amtrak.com:80/amtrak/news/press/atk97.154.html
SHUSTER TO INTRODUCE AMTRAK REAUTHORIZATION BILL--July 19, 1997. House Transportation Chairman Bud Shuster (R-PA) has indicated that he will reintroduce the Amtrak Reform and Reauthorization bill that passed the House in the last session.
SENATE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE TO TAKE UP AMTRAK NUMBER$--UPDATED JULY 18, 1997.--The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, chaired by Senator Richard Shelby (R) of Alabama, held a hearing Thursday on mandatory payments (i.e., Amtrak, Railroad Retirement and RR Unemployment). testimony from the Railroad Retirement Board,OMB, DOT and Amtrak appeared to satisfy Senator Shelby that the dispute over $61million in mandatory payments does not involve any "double-dipping" by Amtrak.
At the hearing Shelby appeared to have written off the national system and it fell to Senator Lautenberg (D) of New Jersey to defend it.
Hopefully yesterday's testimony will lead to restoration of the $61 million Wolf (House subcommittee) took away, by demonstrating that Amtrak is obligated to make the mandatory payments.
Thus far the committee has proposed $283 million for operations but this includes the mandatory payments. The Northeast Corridor figure is $273 million, of which $23 million goes to Farley (the new Penn Station). Nationwide capital remains zero (but the bill shows $641 million subject to approval of the fund created in the tax-cut bill.
The full Senate Appropriations Committee now is scheduled to mark up next Tuesday, July 22, 2:30 PM ET.
CSX IGNORED WARNINGS--July 18, 1997. The Washington Post is reporting today that crew members on a CSX Corp. freight train ignored warnings that a truck trailer on a flatcar was leaning because company officials had assured them it posed no danger. An Amtrak train was sideswiped last week just south of Washington, D.C. by the CSX train. Three Amtrak workers were slightly injured in the accident.
CASCADIA ROUTE CUTBACK--July 13, 1997. The passenger rail program in Oregon got an 11th hour reprieve the week of June 30th meaning THE CASCADIA train is still running south from Portland to Eugene as well as the associated Thruway Bus services. Train service was supposed to end July 8th when funding ran out.
SPECIAL E. ROCHESTER, NY TRAIN--July 13, 1997--Amtrak and the Village of East Rochester, NY will run a special train on Saturday, August 2 in celebration of East Rochester's 100th Anniversary. The train will have Amfleet coaches and a cafe. Extra seats still exist, so the package is now open to the public.
The trip will leave Rochester at 9:30am and head to Albany NY, arriving at about 1:15pm. From Albany, buses will pick the passengers up for a tour of the New York State Capital and then an evening dinner cruise on the scenic Hudson River.
The price of $100 per person includes all transportation costs and dinner on the river cruise. The train will arrive back in Rochester around 11pm Saturday evening.
To order tickets or for more information call the Village of East Rochester office at (716)-586-3553.
UPDATE ON BUDGET RECONCILIATION BILL--July 13, 1997. House conferees on the Amtrak portion of the tax cut bill were named Thursday July 10th. It's important that they go along with the Senate version which contains the Amtrak "half-cent" language rather than the House version, which does not. The Republican conferees are--Senators Lott (R/MS), Moynihan (D/NY) and Roth (R/DE). --Reps. Archer (R/TX), Crane (R/IL), Thomas (R/WY), Kasich (R/OH), Armey (R/TX), DeLay (R/TX), Rangel (D/NY), Matsui (D/CA), McDermott (D/WA), Bonior (D/MI), Shuster (R/PA), Molinari (R/NY), and Oberstar (D/MN). The Senate leadership wants the conference to finish its work by Friday, July 18th.
HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE CUTS AMTRAK OPERATIONS BUDGET--July 13, 1997. The full House Appropriations Committee chaired by Bob Livingston (R/LA) approved the 1998 Transportation Funding Bill on July 11th. It had been approved by the Transportation subcommittee on June 24th. There were no changes to the Amtrak numbers including the particularly damaging figure for excess mandatory retirement and unemployment costs (see story below).
The Transportation subcommittee chaired by Frank Wolf (R/VA) had arbitrarily cut mandatory payments from $142 million to $82 million. If that $60 million gap is not restored somehow, Amtrak is legally obligated to pay it out of their operating grant. In that case, even though the Wolf subcommittee gave Amtrak $201 million for operations, subtracting the mandatory payment shortfall would in effect leave only $141 million for operations. That's $104 million less than Amtrak requested and a gap that size would sink the whole national system no matter what happens with the half-cent. The Wolf subcommittee made this change based on a selective reading of a letter which to Railroad subcommittee chairwoman - Susan Molinari (R/NY) from the Office of Management and Budget. The letter said that one way to define excess mandatory payments results in the $82 million approved by Wolf, but that the Administration still supported it's original request for $142 million. Everyone agrees Amtrak must pay the full $142 million but Wolf did not add $60 million to operations when he knocked it out of mandatory payments.
HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION PROPOSES MAJOR CUT IN AMTRAK OPERATIONS--UPDATED --July 8, 1997. The House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Transportation has approved a FY 1998 funding bill. The Chairman of the Subcommittee is Congressman Frank Wolf, architect of last session's proposed 28% funding cut for Amtrak. Wolf's committee has marked up $283 million for Amtrak operations. This is $61 million less than the requested budget for Amtrak operations, $81.5 million less than what was enacted in FY 1997 and $104 million below what Amtrak requested. The problem is that $142 million must go for mandatory payments alone (retirement & unemployment mandatory payments). The allocation sought by the President and supported by Amtrak would have separated out the mandatory payments. As it stands now the House bill combines mandatory payments with operations thus leaving a serious shortfall on the operations side. The problem with combining mandatory payments with the operations is that even if Amtrak were to be eliminated the mandatory payments of $142 million would still have to be picked up.
The total allocation for Amtrak comes to $793 million - of which $250 million are for the Northeast Corridor and $260 million for system capital. The House total is $345 million less than Amtrak's total request.
The critical figures here are for Amtrak OPERATIONS. At the mark-up during discussion with subcommittee ranking Democrat - Martin Sabo, Chairman Wolf appeared to leave the door open for further review of this crucial subject. If the problem is not resolved, Wolf 's numbers likely will LEAD TO AN AMTRAK COLLAPSE, even with passage of the half-cent. The full House Appropriations Committee is expected to mark up Amtrak appropriations Friday, July 11.
VERMONTER TO GO TO MONTREAL--July 5, 1997. In June, the Vermont Legislature approved a measure directing the State Agency of Transportation to work to restore train service to Montreal.
S.738-AMTRAK REFORM AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT OF 1997 APPROVED BY SENATE COMMERCE COMMITTEE--July 5, 1997. On Thursday June 26th, the Senate Commerce Committee approved S.738 - the Amtrak Reauthorization Bill. Major amendments dealing with stripping out labor reform and liability reform sections were either dropped or narrowly defeated. Senator Dorgan (D/ND) expressed deep concern that the Amtrak Reform Council created by the bill could allow Amtrak to be liquidated without further action by Congress. He planned an amendment to fix that but withheld it in the hope of working with the bill sponsor (Hutchison -R/TX) if the bill goes to the floor. The bill now has seven cosponsors.
For more information on this bill
Don't Stop Those Trains - by Thomas Downs, Amtrak President and CEO.
NARP RESPONDS TO BLUE RIBBON PANEL/OPPOSES MORE RESTRUCTURING-- July 2, 1997. The National Association of Railroad Passengers has responded to the report of the "Blue Ribbon Panel" that had been appointed by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. While welcoming the panel's endorsement for passenger rail NARP said the "plan would lead to a dramatic reduction in route-miles and states served. This, in turn, would quickly lead to the end of federal funding for intercity passenger rail, while significantly greater federal funding for other modes would continue to rise." NARP said that the report "offers a plan whose politics and economics both are far more speculative and based on European models of little relevance."
For the full text of the NARP's press release CLICK HERE.
HALF CENT WINS BIG IN THE SENATE--July 1, 1997.
The half-cent legislation has taken another forward step in the U.S. Senate. An anti-Amtrak amendment in the form of a point of order by Senator McCain (R-Arizona) was soundly defeated by a vote of 77-21! To find out how your Senator voted on this crucial piece of legislation CLICK HERE.
The half-cent proposal now goes to a House-Senate conference on the budget reconciliation bill as early as July 8. As it stands now the half cent language is not contained in the House bill. We need more cosponsors on the House side for HR.1437 to indicate that this measure enjoys more widespread support. Currently there are 59 cosponsors of HR.1437 in the House.
Since the Senate bill says "Amtrak reforms must be passed before the half-cent can take effect", an Amtrak reauthorization bill must be passed this summer. The reauthorization bill now before the Senate is S.738. A reauthorization bill failed to pass the Senate in the last session and the current bill (S.738) is certain to meet wth labor objections. A House reauthorization plan did pass in the last session and could be revived again this year by House Transportation Chairman Bud Shuster (R-PA). However, Shuster now says that he would oppose the Amtrak half-cent if highways and transit do not get to spend the remaining 3.8 cents of fuel tax that now goes to deficit reduction.
The House-Senate conference is planned the week of July 7. To that end, Reps. Bob Franks (R-NJ) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) are planning a "dear colleague" letter to Ways and Means members urging them to accept the Intercity Passenger Rail Fund in conference. Please ask your representative to co-sign this letter (and, if they haven't already, to co-sponsor HR 1437). The more co-sponsors (and letter co-signers) by then, the more likely the Senate half-cent language can prevail.
Enactment of the Senate reconciliation language does not relieve Amtrak of the need for a regular appropriation consistent with the budget resolution. Please remind appropriations subcommittee members of this. According to Amtrak CEO Tom Downs, "The levels provided in the trust fund account assume that Amtrak will continue to receive funds under the annual appropriations bills along the lines that were assumed in the Budget Resolution. For fiscal year 1998, the assumption for Amtrak in the Budget Resolution was $789 million...If Amtrak is to implement its business plan successfully, it will need to have funding levels close to what was assumed in the budget resolution...Of course, we are also hopeful that there will be a reasonable amount of funds available in this reserve account for our capital needs. If this trust fund is created, the caps on transportation spending may be raised for Amtrak by the amount included in this fund, without affecting funding levels for the other modes of transportation that are dependent upon resources from [Wolf's appropriations subcommittee on transportation]."
SENATOR ROTH SPEAKS UP FOR AMTRAK--July 1, 1997. In a statement before the U.S. Senate on June 25, 1997, Senator William Roth (R-DE), the architect of the half-cent legislation in the Senate, explained why it is critical that we provide a dedicated source of capital funding for passenger rail. In his remarks, Senator Roth noted the following:
--since 1970 auto and truck traffic in America has more than doubled.
--highway congestion costs more than $100 billion annually, and this figure does not include the economic and societal costs of increased pollution and wasted energy resources.
--Commercial airlines in the U.S. currently transport over 450 million passengers each year, and a recent transportation safety board study revealed that 21 of the 26 major airports experience serious delays due to congestion. Trends show that the problem is going to get worse.
--Passenger rail ridership between New York and Washington is equal to 7,500 fully booked 757's or 10,000 DC-9's. Between New York and Washington, Amtrak has over 40 percent of the air-rail market.
--Some 5.9 billion passenger miles were taken on Amtrak in 1994. These are trips that were not taken on crowded highways and airways.
--Improved rail service in the Northeast is projected to eliminate over 300,000 auto trips each year.
--Twenty two million of Amtrak's 55 million passengers depend on Amtrak for travel between urban centers and rural locations which have no alternative modes of transportation.
--Last year Washington spent $20 billion for highways, while capital investment for Amtrak was less than $450 million.
--Between FY 1980 and FY 1994, transportation outlays for highways increased 73 percent, aviation increased 170 percent, and transportation outlays for rail went down by 62 percent.
--Between 1982 and 1992 highway spending grew by five percent, aviation by ten percent, while rail decreased by nine percent.
--All other major modes of transportation have such a dedicated source of funding--all major modes except intercity passenger rail.
--According to the Department of Transportation, in FY 1994 nearly $6 billion more was spent on highways than was collected in user fees.
--In FY 1995 nearly $8 billion more was spent on highways than was collected in taxes.
--Transit which is exempt from the motor fuels tax, received $3 billion in revenues in motor fuels revenues last year.
--If something is not done to give Amtrak the capital funds it needs, Amtrak will not survive.
For the full text of Senator Roth's remarks CLICK HERE.
HOUSE BLUE RIBBON PANEL RELEASES REPORT--June 28, 1997. The House Transportation & Infrastructure's "Blue Ribbon" panel (The Working Group on Intercity Passenger Rail) has released its report. The group calls for splitting up Amtrak into two separate entities--one that would own and manage the infrastructure and the other that would manage passenger transportation functions. The panel would have the federal government maintain the infrastructure while the "beneficiaries" of rail service would fund the operations.
The full report can be found on the World Wide Web at:
Committee Chairman Shuster and Subcommittee Chairwoman Molinari issued a press release on June 23rd stating that they were "pleased and encouraged" by the report. They said that they will consult with their full committee to see where they will go from here.
A full copy of the press release from Shuster and Molinari can be
found on the World Wide Web at:
The thirteen member panel was headed up by Dr. Tom Larson, a former Administrator for the Federal Highway Administration at the U.S. Department of Transportation. Two members of the panel dissented from the report. Former New Jersey Governor Jim Florio and Carl Van Horn said the proposal could fragment the national passenger rail system and result in more cuts in routes. Florio and Horn disputed the majority conclusion that there is "very little support for the long-distance routes."
The minority comments are also contained in the full report
CA ZEPHYR/S.W. CHIEF BUS CONNECTIONS--June 20, 1997. I'm told that Amtrak and TNM&O Coaches have expanded connections between Amtrak trains and southeastern Colorado and northeastern New Mexico.
Also, Amtrak and Powder River Trailways now have connections with Wyoming and northeastern Colorado. The two bus companies provide daily connections to Amtrak's Southwest Chief and California Zephyr routes, which serve Raton, NM and Denver, respectively. Details are available by calling Amtrak at 1-(800)-USA-RAIL.
According to reliable sources, the decision to switch the connection from Trinidad to Raton is due to the greater amount of Amtrak space available west of Raton. The New Mexico highlands town is a popular destination for visitors from the East.
AMTRAK'S OPERATION REDBLOCK has a new website. June 11, 1997. CLICK HERE to view the site. Operation Redblock is a crisis intervention program (drug/alcohol) for the personnel which is handled by the unions (13) and the Company.
AMTRAK'S NORTHEAST DIRECT SERVICE UPDATE--June 11, 1997. On July 10, Amtrak will make significant improvements and schedule changes to NortheastDirect Service between Boston and Virginia. These changes include the inauguration of extended, deluxe service on the overnight train, better departure times for New York nighttime event-goers, and additional daily service for Virginia.
Specifically, the current overnight train between Boston and Washington, D.C., the Night Owl, will be relaunched with a new name, the Twilight Shoreliner. This train will feature a new Viewliner sleeping car, a first class lounge car, and a new and expanded schedule designed to better meet the needs of long-distance, overnight customers. The southbound train will leave Boston at 8:00 p.m., depart from New York at 1:30 a.m., arrive in Washington, D.C. at 6:15 a.m., and continue to Newport News, arriving at 10:50 a.m. NJ TRANSIT tickets will no longer be accepted on this train. The northbound train will leave from Newport News at 4:30 p.m., depart Washington, D.C., at 8:45 p.m., depart new York at 1:10 a.m. and arrive in Boston at 6:00 a.m. Mondays through Fridays and 6:10 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Because of the earlier arrival of the new Twilight Shoreliner, morning commuters who now take the Night Owl into Boston may find that MBTA service from Providence will better meet their needs. Southbound commuters from Philadelphia will now have a new train, the Capitol Sunrise, departing weekdays at 6:10 a.m. and arriving in Washington, D.C., at 8:10 a.m., making stops at Wilmington, Perryville (to receive MARC passengers only), Aberdeen, Baltimore, BWI Airport and New Carrollton.
The Evening Metropolitan, which departs Boston daily at 6:10 p.m., will terminate n Philadelphia instead of Washington Monday through Friday mornings at 1:00 a.m. The weekend schedule for this train remains unchanged. Train #198 will operate daily between Washington and New York, leaving Washington at 10:30 p.m., and arriving in New York at 2:10 a.m. MARC tickets will be accepted for this train at Washington, New Carrollton, BWI Airport, Baltimore and Aberdeen. Trains #75, #96 and #196 will be discontinued, as customers served on these trains will be accommodated on the Twilight Shoreliner.
CONGRESS APPROVES "AMTRAK RESERVE FUND" LANGUAGE IN BUDGET RESOLUTION--June 9, 1997. Congress on Thursday June 5th gave final approval to the budget resolution including the pro-Amtrak language of Senate Finance Chairman Roth. This language creates an "Amtrak Reserve Fund" for capital investment. Expenditures from this fund depend on Roth finding "offsets" - that is spending reductions or revenue increases to cover the added Amtrak spending. Since this does not actually provide the gas tax half-cent, it remains important to get co-sponsors for the half-cent bills. Strong sponsorship of these bills shows support for the concept of a dedicated source of Amtrak capital funding.
MOTOR COACHES MAKE AMTRAK CONNECTIONS WITH EASTERN AND SOUTHERN OREGON AND CENTRAL IDAHO--June 4, 1997. CHICAGO -- Amtrak and Greyhound have expanded connections between Amtrak trains and eastern and southern Oregon and Idaho to connect with the Amtrak Empire Builder, Coast Starlight, Mount Adams and Cascadia trains in Portland, Ore., effective May 11, 1997. The motor coach service to eastern Oregon provides alternate service along the route of the Pioneer, which was discontinued effective May 10, 1997. The motor coach and the trains operate daily, unlike the three-days-weekly Pioneer service.
For the full press release on this service CLICK HERE.
New Denver - Colorado Springs - Pueblo - Trinidad Thruway Bus Connection--June 3, 1997. Friends of Amtrak has learned that a planned Denver - Colorado Springs - Pueblo - Trinidad Thruway Bus connection with Amtrak's Southwest Chief appears to be in the works.
This will restore same-day connections between Denver and Southern California, as well as introducing new connections for trips such as Denver - Grand Canyon. The new bus-rail hook-up will actually be faster than the former all-rail service, albeit via an almost completely different route.
The Denver - Trinidad Thruway Bus is tentatively scheduled to make its first runs on Monday, June 23. Departure will be at 6:45 AM from DUT via TNM&O with stops at Colorado Springs and Pueblo to connect with the westbound SW Chief. One way fare will be $32.00 which is just $2.00 more than ColoRail member Hugh Wilson's detailed study estimated. (Additional information on the schedule will be forwarded when we have it.)
House of Representatives member Diana DeGette (D-Denver) supported implementation of this route with a very specific letter to Mark Cane, Amtrak Intercity president. Ironically, the improvement which will benefit her district will also provide the first Amtrak service for Representative Joel Hefley's district (R-Colorado Springs). Hefley is known to rail passengers as an extreme opponent and is the author of HR.1666, the "Kill Amtrak" legislation that was recently introduced into the House.
AMTRAK SUNSET LIMITED BEGINS SERVICE TO PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA--June 3, 1997. CHICAGO -- Amtrak initiates service to Palm Springs, Calif., by the Amtrak Sunset Limited train on June 3, 1997, for westbound service and on June 4, 1997, for eastbound service. The Sunset Limited operates three-days-weekly to and from Los Angeles and Sanford (Orlando), Fla., via Tucson, Ariz., Houston and New Orleans.
For the complete Amtrak press release on this new service CLICK HERE.
TX EAGLE Update Info--June 3, 1997. Effective with Train 21 dp. Chicago June 7 and Train 22 dp. San Antonio June 10, the Texas Eagle will be restored to its full consist of two sleepers, three coaches, a lounge, and a dining car.
Train 21 now leaves Chicago on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. This is a change from before and is made to match the changes on Train 1.
The Texas Eagle does not operate through cars to/from Trains 1/2 San Antonio-Los Angeles. Both coach and sleeper passengers on Train 21 making the connection at San Antonio may remain on board Train 21 in their seats or rooms as they wait for Train 1. Complimentary snacks are offered.
Trains 21/22 are in Arrow through September 30, 1997. Operation after that date is pending additional measures taken to increase revenue from mail and express.
"KILL AMTRAK BILL" INTRODUCED IN HOUSE--June 2, 1997. A "Kill Amtrak Bill," HR.1666 (The Amtrak Privatization Act) has been introduced into Congress by Joel Hefley (R-CO). The bill, in part, reads, "No funds are authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary (of Transportation) for the benefit of Amtrak for any fiscal year after fiscal year 2001." This bill would amend Title 49, U.S. Code, "to eliminate provisions of Federal law that provide special support for, or burdens on, the operation of Amtrak as a passenger rail carrier, and for other purposes." HR.1666 has been referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. As of June 4, 1997 the bill had no cosponsors.
AMTRAK AND WISCONSIN DOT ANNOUNCE FLEXLINER DEMONSTRATION BETWEEN CHICAGO AND MILWAUKEE--June 2, 1997. Amtrak and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation will operate the Danish- built, high-tech Flexliner passenger train between Chicago and Milwaukee, from June 6 through June 29, 1997. The Flexliner will replace conventional equipment in most operations of the Hiawatha Service trains in the corridor.
Amtrak, in cooperation with international manufacturer Adtranz, is participating in a two-year demonstration tour of the Flexliner, a futuristic passenger train that has been operating in European rail service since 1990. During the tour, Amtrak plans to demonstrate to Americans an example of a unique type of passenger rail equipment being used successfully in Europe which might eventually be used in the United States for short-to-medium-distance intercity markets.
"This unique train is being successfully used in Denmark, Israel and Sweden and offers great potential for short-to-medium distance intercity markets such as Milwaukee-Chicago," said Wisconsin Gov. Tommy G. Thompson.
For the full text of this press release Click here. For more information from the Friends of Amtrak archives click here.
Boston to Portland Maine Update--June 2, 1997. Guilford Transportation has filed a motion against the Surface Transportation Board to dismiss the proceeding involving Amtrak's access to Guilford's line from the Boston area to Portland, ME based on Guilford's allegations about Amtrak's weak financial position. Amtrak took the case to the STB on March 26th and asked for resolution within 150 days. The current delay is starting the needed track work on the Boston-Portland line. Amtrak and Guilford can't agree on liability terms or track maintenance costs. Amtrak has offered Guilford what all other freight railroads get from Amtrak, but Guilford wants more. Amtrak said in a statement "That if Guilford's terms were accepted, there would be no limit on the amount that Guilford could charge the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, and therefore, the people of Maine, to allow Amtrak access to Guilford's tracks." All this could mean the loss of the 1997 construction season and a push-back of the startup date another year to Fall 1998.
Final passage of the budget resolution will depend on a House-Senate conference committee.
TEXAS EAGLE SAVED--May 19, 1997. The Amtrak "bridge loan" to keep the Texas Eagle in service has passed the Texas legislature and has been signed by Gov. Bush. The triweekly train will operate from Chicago to San Antonio with a reduced consist for one week, pending the completion of statutory requirements related to the Texas bridge loan legislation. Amtrak has committed to restoring the train to full consist length by early June, including diner, lounge and sleepers. Word is that Amtrak is interested in running the train daily once planned express service on its route begins.
For the full text of Amtrak's press release of May 8, 1997 CLICK HERE.
S.738-AMTRAK REFORM AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT OF 1997 Introduced In The Senate --May 14, 1997. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), as chairman of the Surface Transportation Subcommittee, today introduced S.738, the AMTRAK REFORM AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT OF 1997. According to Senator Hutchinson, Congress has, for too long, told Amtrak to run a good railroad while tying one arm behind their back.
The bill would repeal two laws. One is the 6-year termination provisions for anyone who is employed at Amtrak, if a line is shut down. The other is the current prohibition on contracting out. The bill would also provide for liability reform with caps on punitive damages for two times compensatory damages or $250,000, whichever is greater.
"Every transportation mode has taxpayer subsidies," said Senator Hutchinson. "Part of the reason we have mobility in our country is because we subsidize highways, we subsidize airports, we now also subsidize trains, and it does provide mobility. I want to try to get Amtrak back on track, get it to run right, and see if we can have a passenger rail system that is dependable, that provides good service and viable transportation options to all the people of our country, whether they are elderly and do not want to drive, whether they just cannot drive, whether they do not like to fly, whether they live in a small community that does not have any kind of passenger service. We want people to have this mobility."
Under the plan, Wisconsin agrees to pay Amtrak $2.96 million in 1997-98, $3.41 million in 1998-99 and $3.71 million in 1999-2000. Wisconsin will pay for 75% of the cost of the service, while Illinois would pay the balance, pending legislative approval.
For the full text of this press release from Amtrak CLICK HERE.
MOTOR COACHES MAINTAIN AMTRAK CONNECTIONS TO LAS VEGAS
--May 12, 1997. Amtrak and Greyhound Lines, Inc., have expanded
connections between Amtrak trains and Las Vegas, effective May 11,
1997, to provide alternate service along the Los Angeles-Las Vegas
route of the Desert Wind, which was discontinued effective May 10,
1997. The motor coach service operates daily, unlike the
three-days-weekly Desert Wind service, with schedules coordinated
with the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief and the Los
Angeles-Sanford (Orlando) Sunset Limited. Connections with other
Amtrak trains are under consideration.
For the full text of Amtrak's press release on this CLICK HERE.
Budget Agreement/ISTEA Update--May 13, 1997. It is understood that the budget agreement between President Clinton and Capitol Hill leaders includes $2 Billion a year above the current transportation spending levels. Reportedly after a meeting on May 8th, among Speaker Gingrich and key House Chairmen, transportation's share of federal spending will grow even bigger. The higher the transportation totals, the better the chances for enactment of the Amtrak half-cent. In any event, House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bud Shuster (R/PA) plans to begin the approval ("markup") process of ISTEA renewal around May 19th and to finish by Memorial Day recess. He expects House floor debates in June.
Cape Codder Discontinued--May 12, 1997. Both the Boston Globe and The New York Times have reported that the seasonal Cape Cod service to Hyannis, MA will not operate this year. It has run every summer for the past 11 years. Amtrak cited losses of $500,000 last season.
BOSTON-ALBANY LAKE SHORE SAVED--May 1, 1997. Amtrak and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have agreed to continue the Lake Shore Limited's Boston to Albany, N.Y., service (Trains 448/449) beyond May 10, 1997. In exchange for this continuation, Massachusetts has committed to provide a mail and express facility in Springfield to service the Lake Shore Limited.
The new mail and express facility will handle mail and express loadings on and off trucks and trains. It will be larger than the current mail facility that is just south of the Springfield station. The new facility is planned to be located east of the Springfield station, adjacent to the Conrail line between Boston and Springfield.
AMTRAK'S NIGHT OWL SERVICE UPDATE--May 1, 1997. Amtrak Northeast President George Warrington has revealed that by Midsummer 1997, the NIGHT OWL will be extended to Richmond and Newport News, VA with Viewliner sleeping cars on it.
AMTRAK MAY RETURN TO KANSAS CITY'S UNION STATION--May 1, 1997. Amtrak and the developers of Union Station in Kansas City have a preliminary agreement to move Amtrak back into that historic building. Amtrak left in 1985 and moved into a prefab building under the adjacent Main Street Viaduct. Now a plan to make Union Station into a Science Museum could include an Amtrak facility in the former "drugstore and soda fountain area." Amtrak officials are considering the logistics as this would put Amtrak's waiting room much further from the tracks than the current station. Amtrak President Downs, who grew up in Kansas City, has been trying to get Amtrak back in the old terminal for a couple of years. He has called the present location "like a troll under the bridge."
WISCONSIN COMMUTER SERVICE--May 1, 1997. According to the "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel", Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson said this week he was hopeful that CP Rail System and Amtrak would be able to establish commuter service later this year on a freight line that slices through Waukesha and Milwaukee counties. He said he had met with CP Rail System officials and put pressure on them to allow Amtrak to run commuter trains on the tracks as an extension of the Chicago-to-Milwaukee passenger service.
AMPENNY LEGISLATION INTRODUCED IN THE HOUSE--April 26, 1997. On April 24, Congressman Michael Castle (D-DE) introduced into the House of Representatives a bill that would create a dedicated trust fund for Amtrak. The bill is known as the Intercity Rail Trust Fund Act (HR.1437). The legislation dedicates the revenues from 1/2 cent of the federal gasoline tax (a portion of the 4.3 cents per gallon now going to the General Fund) for Amtrak capital investments and deposits the revenues into a Rail Trust Fund for a five year period.
URGENT - You are URGENTLY requested to write your representative in the House and urge him/her to co-sponsor this important bill.
The bill currently has 70 co-sponsors as of July 14, 1997.
AMERICAN PASSENGER RAIL COALITION SUPPORTS AMPENNY LEGISLATION --April 24, 1997. The American Passenger Rail Coalition (APRC), a national association of rail equipment suppliers, offered praise and strong support for legislation introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Michael Castle (R-DE). "The American Passenger Rail Coalition is pleased to offer our strong support for this legislation to create a dedicated source of funding for Amtrak capital investments," stated William Lochte of Bombardier Transit Corporation and Chairman of APRC. "This legislation is critical to the survival of Amtrak."
ROTH WILL ADD AMPENNY TO ISTEA REAUTHORIZATION--April 20, 1997. Senate Finance Committee Chairman William Roth has promised to add the dedicated half-cent trust fund for Amtrak to the 1997 ISTEA reauthorization bill. Senator Roth issued the following statement on Tuesday, April 15, 1997.
WASHINGTON -- Senator William V. Roth, Jr. (R-DE) joined with 28 other Senators today in support the ISTEA Reauthorization Act of 1997. Roth's statement follows. Note the last paragraph in particular.
"Six years ago, under Senator Moynihan's leadership, Congress changed the way transportation policy is viewed. No longer was it merely a question of just building roads and supporting mass transit. The last ISTEA bill factored into the equation new variables such as the environment, health and safety in planning transportation projects.
"I'm pleased to join my colleagues here today because ISTEA works. And it will work even better over the next six years when the flexibility provisions Senator Moynihan has included are adopted into law. For the first time, states will have the freedom to use certain federal transportation funds for Amtrak.
"In my view, passenger rail must be part of any sensible transportation plan. It offers the promise of fuel efficient and cost effective transportation. But only if we properly fund it.
"When the Finance Committee takes up the tax provisions of ISTEA later this year, I intend to make this good bill even better, by including my proposal to dedicate 1/2 cent of the federal motor fuels tax to a passenger rail trust fund for Amtrak."
SHUSTER AGAIN ANNOUNCES CONDITIONAL SUPPORT FOR AMPENNY --April 18, 1997. House Transportation Committee Chairman Bud Shuster said Thursday that he supports allocating a half-penny per gallon of the federal gasoline tax to Amtrak. Currently 4.3 cents a gallon of the gas tax goes into federal coffers for deficit reduction. Shuster said that his support for this measure would be contingent upon a restructuring of Amtrak and assurances that the remaining 3.8 cents be used strictly for highways, bridges and mass transit. The half cent tax fund would provide Amtrak with approximately $700 million annually for maintenance and capital costs. Shuster said that the funding plan was better than raising Amtrak ticket prices which would drive away ridership.
There is currently a $23 billion surplus in the federal highway trust fund which some lawmakers want to use for deficit reduction. In a press release issued yesterday, Shuster said that a majority of House members of both parties support HR.4, the "Truth In Budgeting Act," that would move the $23 billion off budget to be used for the nation's transportation needs.
AMTRAK/NORFOLK SOUTHERN PLAN TO COMPETE WITH TRUCKING INDUSTRY--April 18, 1997. The Norfolk Southern Railroad and Amtrak are reportedly working on a plan to better compete with the trucking industry. The two railroads are negotiating schedules, rates and the number of trains NS could run along Atmrak's busy northeast corridor tracks. Amtrak spokesman Rick Remington said, "We can confirm we are talking to Norfolk Southern and a number of other freight railroads as far as whatever opportunities might be out there for us. But we don't intend to comment on the substance of those talks right now." Norfolk Southern will be inheriting Conrail's rights to use the northeast corridor as part of the deal with CSX Railroad over the breakup of Conrail. The plan with NS could mean the infusion of new revenues for Amtrak.
Amtrak Orders New Locomotives From GM-EMD--April 17, 1997. Amtrak announced yesterday (April 16, 1997) that it has ordered 21 new F59PHI diesel locomotives, totalling $46 million, from GM's Electro-Motive Division in La Grange, Ill. The new locomotives will be delivered in the spring of 1988 for use on Amtrak's West Coast operations. The new order will retire GM F-40 diesels, some of which are 20 years old, and will operate on the San Diegans, Capitols, San Joaquins, Capitols and Pacific North West Corridor routes.
To read the full text of Amtrak's press release on the purchase of the 21 new locomotives from General Motors CLICK HERE.
AMTRAK ROUTE CLOSING COMMISSION ESTABLISHED--April 15, 1997. Chairman Frank Wolf (R/VA) of the House Transportation Appropriations subcommittee introduced his bill for an eleven member "Amtrak Route Closing Commission" - HR1210 on March 20th. Co-sponsors are Packard (R/CA) and Dulay(R/TX) - both on Wolf's subcommittee. The bill's self-described aim is to find an equitable process for strengthening the passenger rail service of Amtrak and for the "timely closure and realignment" of routes with low economic performance. Wolf's commission would assume no operating funding in 2002 and no need for a national rail system. The bill does not discuss ways to increase or improve Amtrak service. However, the truth is that even Amtrak's management is even convinced that it can't downsize their way to profitability and that another round of cuts would leave Amtrak too small to command any support on Capitol Hill. This bill has been referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and in addition to the Committee on Rules.
SENATOR WARNER SUPPORTS HALF-CENT FOR AMTRAK--April 15, 1997. For the first time Senator John Warner (R/VA), Transportation Chairman on the Environments Public Works Committee, favors a form of half-cent for Amtrak. He long had opposed any highway funds going to passenger trains, but now he evidently shares Bud Shuster's views that the Amtrak "half-cent" might be helpful in getting the 4.3 cents of deficit-reduction gas tax redirected to transportation.
BOSTON TO PORTLAND, ME UPDATE--April 15, 1997. Amtrak on Wednesday, March 26th took it's dispute with Guilford Transportation Industries to the Surface Transportation Board and asked for resolution within 150 days. The current delay is starting track work on the Boston-Portland line is that Amtrak and Guilford can't agree on liability terms or track maintenance costs. Amtrak has offered Guilford what all other freight railroads get from Amtrak, but Guilford wants more. Amtrak said in a statement "That if Guilford's terms were accepted, there would be no limit on the amount that Guilford could charge the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, and therefore, the people of Maine to allow Amtrak access to Guilford's tracks." All this could mean the loss of the 1997 construction season and a push-back of the startup date another year to Fall 1998.
CSX-NS-CONRAIL-AMTRAK STATUS--April 15, 1997. On Tuesday April 8th, CSX and Norfolk Southern officially agreed on a plan to split Conrail among them. CSX would get the LAKE SHORE LIMITED route east from Cleveland; the THREE RIVERS route south of New Castle, PA; and the CARDINAL route between Indianapolis and Crawfordsville, Ind.. NS would get all other Conrail routes with Amtrak trains on them, and the Conrail freight rights on the Northeast and Keystone Corridors.
RAIL/90 and RAIL/90 Oklahoma--April 13, 1997. There are new
Web pages for RAIL/90 and RAIL/90 Oklahoma.
CLICK HERE for the RAIL/90 website.
RAIL/90 and RAIL/90 Oklahoma are proposed systems for Oklahoma City, Houston and Regional Connections via ICE trains. Also, it incorprates High Speed Freight on Class I Right of Way with concessions by the Owner/Operators on ROW costs, concessions by the Teamsters and Independent Truckers on Inter-modal use, etc.
--From Phil A. Hughes
RAIL/90 Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, OK
RAIL/90, Houston, TX
RAIL/90 Compuserve E-mail Address
RAIL/90 AOL E-mail Address
Dallas Morning News Supports Texas Eagle Loan--April 12, 1997. In todays Dallas Morning News there is an editorial that urges passage of the Amtrak Texas Eagle loan. It agrees that Dallas needs passenger rail service. It urges Congress to get behind rail service and thanks Senator Hutchinson for her efforts.
Amtrak Statement on Status of Boston-Albany Lake Shore--April 9, 1997. Amtrak and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are in discussions regarding the continued operation of the Lake Shore Limited's Boston to Albany service beyond May 10, 1997. In exchange for this continuation, Massachusetts has announced it would provide a mail and express facility in Springfield to service the Lake Shore Limited.
This agreement is not yet completed and therefore Amtrak is not in a position to begin accepting reservations for that segment of the route of the Lake Shore Limited. The length of the Amtrak commitment to continue Lake Shore Limited service is dependent on the details of a final agreement.
"We look forward to quickly finalizing the agreement so that Amtrak can continue to serve Massachusetts with the Lake Shore Limited," said Mark S. Cane, president of the Chicago-based Amtrak Intercity business unit responsible for the operation of the Lake Shore Limited.
This press release can be located on the World Wide Web by CLICKING HERE.
Amtrak Statement on Status of the Texas Eagle--April 9, 1997. Texas state officials have notified Amtrak of the approval by the House Appropriations Committee of the Texas State Legislature of measures to extend a $5.6 million loan to Amtrak. The loan would enable Amtrak to continue the operation of the three-days-weekly service along the St. Louis-San Antonio portion of the Texas Eagle route through Sept. 30, 1997. Previously, the legislation was approved in the Texas State Senate. The legislation will still have to be passed by the full Texas House of representatives and be signed by the governor before becoming law. Gov. George Bush's office has indicated he will support the legislation.
The opening of the Texas Eagle to post-May 10 reservations will occur if the measures are approved by state officials.
This press release can be found on the World Wide Web by CLICKING HERE.
TEXAS EAGLE STATUS UPDATE--April 8, 1997. The Texas House Appropriations committee met Tuesday April 8th and voted to approve the proposed loan to Amtrak to keep the TEXAS EAGLE running. The committee voted 21-0 on the overall emergency supplemental appropriations bill, which includes the "EAGLE loan" money. It also voted 20-3 on a separate "EAGLE only" bill to enable the loan. There is still a lot to do since both bills must pass the full house. Amtrak and the Texas mayors have been working hard on this. For a long time the chairman of the committee was skeptical about Amtrak's collateral or assurances that the loan would be repaid. In the end, in a Monday night meeting April 7th, the cities joined the state in guaranteeing the loan. Also Amtrak's collateral was raised twice. It was at three- Santa Fe High-Level Cars when the Texas Senate voted in March; and then increased to twelve and then finally to twenty cars before the House committee vote.
HOUSE PANEL APPOINTS AMTRAK STUDY COMMISSION--April 2, 1997. WASHINGTON Congressman Bud Shuster (R-PA), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Congressman James Oberstar (D-MN), Ranking Member, Railroads Subcommittee Chairwoman Susan Molinari (R-NY), and Ranking Democratic Subcommittee Member Robert Wise (D-WV) today announced the group of experts who will give their advice on how to best develop an emergency plan to address the perilous financial condition of Amtrak and of inter-city rail service.
"These 13 individuals -- all experts in various transportation-related fields will provide us with ideas, suggestions, and options to help us formulate a plan of action to address the current crisis in inter-city rail. We want to emphasize that the group's meetings during the next 30 to 60 days will be informal and that the group will not be expected to issue any kind of definitive report or recommendation. Instead, its function is to provide creative ideas and options for dealing with the looming crisis."
"We believe it is clearly evident to all interested parties that Amtrak is in extremely serious trouble and bandaids are simply not going to do the job anymore. The March 12th hearing by the Railroads Subcommittee vividly demonstrated by testimony from no less than Amtrak and by the General Accounting Office that Amtrak, even under optimistic assumptions, cannot survive the next fiscal year. The company is already borrowing to meet payroll costs and even Amtrak's own business plan will require exhausting all available lines of credit by the middle of Fiscal Year 1998."
"Congress has been faced with claims of an Amtrak "crisis" many times in the past. This is the final crisis: the alternative is a Penn Central-style bankruptcy, with all of the chaos and unpredictability that comes with a bankruptcy and a complete shutdown."
For the full text of this press release including the names of the members of this commission CLICK HERE.
Amtrak Cascades--April 1, 1997. Amtrak, the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Oregon Department of Transportation announced today that Amtrak's Cascades service will debut in the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor in summer 1998.
The new Cascades service will be launched when three new, custom-built trains replace existing trains on the current daily Seattle-Portland Mount Adams, Seattle-Vancouver, BC Mount Baker International and Eugene-Seattle Cascadia. The Portland-Eugene segment of the Cascadia will be discontinued June 30, 1997 unless the rail program is funded by the Oregon legislature for the next biennium.
For a full copy of the press release on the above story CLICK HERE.
Amtrak to Nashville?--March 23, 1997. The Friday, March 21st edition of the "Nashville Banner" reports that Amtrak has placed a new Chicago-Nashville-Atlanta-Florida route at the top its priority list if the company becomes solvent.
Among Amtrak's friends in Congress is Representative Bob Clement, D-Nashville. Amtrak CEO Tom Downs reportedly met with Clement last week to thank him for his support and tell him Amtrak hasn't forgotten Nashville. "We're committed to developing routes that make economic sense," Downs told Clement. "In your corridor, there is a distinct possibility for that."
HOUSE PANEL ANNOUNCES FORMATION OF A BIPARTISAN PANEL TO HELP DEVELOP PLAN TO SAVE AMTRAK--March 20, 1997. WASHINGTON -- Stating that "Without decisive action very soon, the country will have no inter-city rail service within a few months.," Congressman Bud Shuster (R-PA), today announced the formation of a bipartisan panel of experts to assist in developing an emergency plan to address the continuation of inter-city rail service. Shuster is Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; joining him at a press conference were Ranking Democratic Member James Oberstar (D-MN), Subcommittee on Railroads Chairwoman Susan Molinari (R-NY), and Ranking Democratic Member Robert Wise (D-WV).
"The central purpose of this `blue ribbon panel' we are assembling will be to provide ideas, suggestions and options to the Committee, in order to formulate a plan of action to address the current crisis in inter-city rail. We want original thinking from the best experts we can find, we want non-political expertise, and we want them to present all the options they can envision. While we do not expect any formal votes or a formal report, we will be interested in both their individual judgements and the areas where they can reach consensus. We believe that an informal, less-structured arrangement of this type is the most likely to produce genuinely original ideas the can form the basis of bipartisan legislative solutions."
"I believe it is clearly evident to all interested parties that Amtrak is in extremely serious trouble and band-aids are simply not going to do the job anymore. The March 12th hearing by the Railroads Subcommittee vividly demonstrated -- by testimony from no less than Amtrak and by the Government Accounting Office -- that Amtrak, even under optimistic assumptions, cannot survive the next fiscal year. The company is already borrowing to meet payroll costs and even Amtrak's own business plan will require exhausting all available lines of credit by the middle of Fiscal Year 1998."
"Congress has been faced with claims of an Amtrak `crisis' many times in the past. This is the final crisis: the alternative is a Penn Central-style bankruptcy, with all of the chaos and unpredictability that comes with a bankruptcy and a complete shut down."
"We are putting the finishing touches on the actual appointment of the panel Members and should have a definitive list very soon," concluded Shuster.
AMTRAK ANNOUNCES TERMINATION OF PIONEER/DESERT WIND-- PLANS FOR TEXAS EAGLE & BOSTON-ALBANY LAKE SHORE--March 20, 1997. Amtrak announced today that it will go ahead with plans to drop two of the four routes scheduled for termination on May 10th. Amtrak will discontinue the Pioneer from Denver to Seattle and the Desert Wind from Salt Lake City to L.A. "Unfortunately, despite great interest and substantial concern expressed by many states, no formal commitments have been made to fund replacement services" for the Pioneer and Desert Wind, said Amtrak spokesman Clifford Black. "Therefore, Amtrak will proceed with plans to withdraw service along those routes effective May 10."
In the meantime Texas officials have been given an extension until March 31 to come up with a $5.6 million loan package that would allow the Texas Eagle to survive for another six months. In return Amtrak CEO Tom Downs said that he would actively seek U.S. Postal Service and private express mail shipment contracts to make the train more financially viable.
Likewise Massachusetts officials were given until the end of the month to come up with a plan for saving the Boston-Albany segment of the Lake Shore Ltd.
With the termination of the Pioneer and Desert Wind Amtrak will restore daily service to the California Zephyr from Chicago to Oakland and the Empire Builder from Chicago to Seattle/Portland.
Earlier this month, Amtrak served notice that the daily Gulf Coast Limited service between New Orleans and Mobile, Ala., will cease operations on March 31. This service had also experienced a six-month extension during which time alternative state funding sources have not yet materialized, despite strong interest and concern.
The routes affected by these actions were originally slated for service reductions as part of Amtrak's FY97 strategic business plan. Amtrak's limited resources and absence of a capital funding source required that its constrained equipment fleet be redeployed to those routes having the greatest immediate and future performance potential
In its statement Amtrak noted that it "is also aggressively pursuing additional commercial opportunities such as expanded mail and express business which will improve the overall economics of long-distance train travel. Such strategies, combined with a dedicated source of capital funds could result in the potential return of passenger rail service in communities which no longer have it." CLICK HERE for the full text of this statement from Amtrak.
AMPENNY Legislation Introduced-- S.436 --March 15, 1997. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Wiliam Roth (R-DE) and Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) introduced a bill on March 13, 1997 that would create a capital trust fund for Amtrak. The bill is known as S.436. "A secure source of capital funding is critical if we are to strengthen Amtrak and reduce its reliance on federal operating support," Roth said.
The trust fund would be created by transferring one-half cent of the existing 4.3 cents-per-gallon of federal gasoline taxes that now go to the government's general fund.
Meanwhile Amtrak's CEO, Tom Downs, testified before a House panel on March 13 saying that Amtrak's survival would be threatened unless Congress acted soon.
Updated July 13, 1997Co-sponsors of S. 436 thus far (as of 6/10/97) include: Moynihan (D-NY), Biden (D-DE), D'Amato (R-NY), DeWine (R-OH), Hutchison (R-TX), Jeffords (R-VT), Kennedy (D-MA), Kerry (D-MA), Lautenberg (D-NJ), Leahy (D-VT), Lieberman (D-CT), Murray (D-WA), Specter (R-PA), Torricelli (D-NJ) and Wyden (D-OR).
CLICK HERE for the full text of S.436, The Intercity Passenger Rail Trust Fund Act of 1997 as introduced into the Senate on March 13, 1997.
Amtrak Hearings Held on Capitol Hill--March 15, 1997. Three Amtrak-related hearings were held this week. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee met on March 12th, and the Senate Commerce Committee & the Environments Public Works Transportation Subcommittee both met March 13th. There were many expressions of concern for Amtrak and the condition of passenger rail in general, especially an impassioned speech by Senator Biden D/DE on March 13th.
Conditional expressions of support for the Amtrak half-cent came from Chairman Schuster R/PA in the House, and Senator Warner (R/VA) of the Environments Public Works Committee. Their conditions are enactment of Amtrak legislative reforms and transfer of the rest of the 4.3 cents in "deficit reduction gas taxes" to the Highway Trust Fund.
Clinton Administration Includes Amtrak in NEXTEA Proposal--March 15, 1997. The Clinton Administration released it's proposal for ISTEA renewal (which expires Sept.30th) - now it is calling - NEXTEA - which stands for "National Economic Crossroads Transportation and Efficiency Act." The new proposal is good news for Amtrak because it would give states the same choice to spend some federal money on intercity passenger rail projects - so called flexibility - that the states already have for highway, transit, commuter trains, bike trails, etc., with funding coming from the highway trust fund.
The Clinton Administration's NEXTEA has been introduced in the Senate as S.468.
Hearings this week--March 10, 1997. From the NARP. Senator Bill Roth (R-DE) will testify Thursday morning, March 13, at a Senate Environment & Public Works Committee hearing (406 Dirksen Bldg., at 9:30 am). He will outline his legislation to create a capital improvement trust fund for Amtrak and discuss the importance of giving states greater flexibility to use their federal transportation dolars for Amtrak services. The trust fund would be a half-cent from the 4.3-cents-a-gallon now going to deficit reduction (but his bill is not expected to deal with the other 3.8 cents). Roth has six co-sponsors thus far: Baucus (D-MT), Biden (D-DE), Jeffords (R-VT), Kerry (D-MA), Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Wyden (D-OR).
He will face two of the Senate's most outspoken opponents of these concepts: John Warner (R-VA) and Robert Smith (R-NH). Amtrak, the American Public Transit Association and the Association of American Railroads also will testify at this hearing.
Two other important hearings are scheduled for this week: Rep. Susan Molinari's (R-NY) Subcommittee on Railroads will hear testimony from Amtrak and the General Accounting Office on Wednesday, March 12, 2 pm, 2167 Rayburn Bldg. The subject will be a new, bleak GAO assessment of Amtrak's financial condition. Also, the Senate Commerce Subcommittee chaired by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) will hold an Amtrak hearing on Thursday, March 13, at 2 pm (253 Russell Bldg).
Senator Roth also has taken an active role in creating a "coalition of Amtrak supporters" within the Senate. His March 4 release on this said he was joining with Max Baucus (D-MT), Joseph Biden Jr. (D-DE) and three other Senators to announce the formation of a coalition that will fight for the nation's passenger rail system. A similar House group also is forming.
House Committee Holds Hearings--March 7, 1997. The House Transortation Appropriations Subcommittee chaired by Frank Wolf of Virginia held hearings the week of February 28th on 1998 funding. Chairman Wolf went out of his way to say he supports Amtrak and the Northeast Corridor, but he is still angry about the money that got added in at the last minute last fall to keep certain trains running another six months. Wolf said that if states did not come in and save those trains now, then that would be sending any more federal money down "the rat hole". In response to that, Texas Transportation Commissioner David Laney said his state is working on a $5.6 Million loan to Amtrak to keep the TEXAS EAGLE running from May 10th to Sept. 30th.
Ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee - Martin Sabo of Minnesota is skeptical of Amtrak taking the 4.3 cents per gallon of gax-tax that goes to deficit reduction. He was even more skeptical when highway witnesses said they wanted the 4.3 cents to be returned to it's original purpose - building highways. Sabo reminded them that the 4.3 cents passed in 1993 was never meant to be used for highways. Senator Sabo should know better. Amtrak is only seeking 0.5 cents for a dedicated trust fund, not the full 4.3 cents.
Public Hearing on the Future of Amtrak's Pioneer--March 7, 1997. There was a public hearing on February 22nd in Pendelton, Oregon to discuss the future of THE PIONEER. Speakers included both the US Senators from Oregon - Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith, Amtrak President Tom Downs, and the Speaker of the State Legislature. Downs said he hoped mail and express could save THE PIONEER in the long run, but that some additional funding would be needed to keep the train running between May 10th and such time when non-passenger revenues would grow.
New Utah Train Stop--March 7, 1996. The Salt Lake Desert
News reports that the Utah Board of Business and Economic Development
has approved a $26,000 grant to Green River for some changes to its
railroad station so Amtrak's California Zepher will stop there rather
than at Thompson. In applying for the grant, Green River officials
said trains stopping in their community will bring added business to
retail outlets and motels and upgrade that end of Main Street. The
current stop in Thompson doesn't provide a place for customers to
wait for the arrival and departure of trains.
Green River is a stopping off point for the Canyon Lands and Arches national parks.
Amtrak has announced that Caffe Appassionato coffee will be served exclusively on Amtrak passenger trains throughout the Northwest.
Amtrak "Tests" New Reservation Policy--From the NARP, March 5, 1997:
* * * * * * * * * * * "On a "test" basis (the month of March), Amtrak with little advance notice dramatically changed its hold policy for reserved trains, except Metroliners. Previously, there was a 14-day hold (seven days for Florida trains), meaning you had to pay for your ticket in that time or lose your reservation. Now, seven days applies to all non-Metroliner, reserved trains--except the Crescent hold is three days, and the Capitol Limited/Southwest Chief an unbelievable one day. "Advance Payment lets you pay when you reserve (if you have a credit card), pick up ticket later, but doesn't help those without credit cards. It also appears that nonrefundability of discounted rail fares will be tested soon on the City of New Orleans, with tickets exchangeable for future travel. Amtrak's stated goals are improved cash flow and reduced time that space is held for people who will not use it. "We have protested this, are continuing discussions with Amtrak." * * * * * * * * * I urge those of you who want to join the NARP in opposing this move by Amtrak to write to Amtrak at: AMTRAK, National Railroad Passenger Corporation 60 Massachusetts Avenue N.E. Washington, D.C. 20002-4225
Adirondack Gets Bus Connection--March 3, 1997.
The following bus connection is now in place to take passengers from Westport to/from Lake Placid, and connects with the Adirondack. #68 Southbound #70 Southbound Mon-Sat Sunday Lv Lake Placid 1:00pm 3:00pm Ar Westport 1:55pm 4:00pm #69 Northbound #71 Northbound Mon-Sat Sunday Lv Westport 2:15pm 4:25pm Ar Lake Placid 3:25pm 5:25pm The cost is $15 each way. Advance Reservations required. Must be reserved with a rail reservation on the Adirondack to Westport. The bus stops in Lake Placid at Holiday Inn, Ramada Inn, Howard Johnson's, Hilton, and the Mirror Lake Inn.
Amtrak Proposing A New Pioneer--March 2, 1997. A staff writer for the "Denver Post," Kit Miniclier, is reporting in today's edition (March 1) that Amtrak has proposed a new route for the Pioneer while extending the California Zephyr to daily service. In efforts to keep the Pioneer alive Amtrak proposes to reroute the train, eliminate one-third of its stops between Cheyenne and Portland and create a new "hot shot" train that could rush periodicals, small parcels, and other freight as well as passengers en route from Chicago to Portland. The new plan would run the train on a more direct route along Union Pacific tracks between Omaha and Cheyenne thus bypassing Greeley, Denver, Fort Morgan and four Nebraska towns.
Amtrak now earns $63 million annually in revenue from the Postal Service. In the Post article, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari is quoted as saying that Amtrak plans to "very much expand" its mail and develop its express package business. Magliari confirmed that Amtrak is now considering the purchase of 500 freight cars equiped with high-speed undercarriages in addition to the "Road Railers" that it has already acquired.
Amtrak has established a March 15th deadline for states affected by the service cutbacks to come up with plans and funding to keep the trains running. Trains affected by the cuts, in addtion to the Pioneer, include the Desert Wind, Texas Eagle and Boston - Albany Lakeshore Ltd. These trains were originally scheduled for elimination by Amtrak last November after Congress once again slashed Amtrak's already shrinking budget. In a last minute gesture before the November elections Congress came up with interim funding of $22.5 million to keep the trains running through May 10th.
Downs to Testify on Hill--February 28, 1997. From Amtrak's Employee Advisory.
Amtrak CEO Tom Downs is scheduled to testify on Amtrak-related issues at several House and Senate committees in the coming weeks. On March 12, the House Subcommittee on Railroads will hold hearings on a Government Accounting Office (GAO) report on Amtrak's finances. The next day, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is scheduled to hear testimony on the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA). Later that same day, the Senate Commerce Committee will conduct its own hearing on the GAO report. The following week, Downs has been invited to give testimony before the House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee concerning federal funding for Amtrak in fiscal year 1998.
Although these are the only hearings scheduled for March, it is likely that Amtrak will be asked to testify before the House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee on ISTEA and the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee on Amtrak funding for FY98.
Springfield, MA to Harrisburg, PA--February 27, 1997. At a meeting of the Empire State Passengers Association (NY state) Amtrak's Director-High Speed Services said that they are looking at acquiring more dual-mode units to operate the Springfield, MA trains, possibly to Harrisburg, PA, this according to reports I've received.
Texas and Cites Draft Plan to Save the Texas Eagle--February 27, 1997. According to yesterday's "Dallas Morning News" a plan is being drafted by Texas cities and the state's Transportation Department to save the Texas Eagle. Amtrak's Texas Eagle is slated for termination May 10th.
According to the proposal Texas would loan Amtrak $5.6 million to continue operations through September 30, allowing Congress more time to come up with a long-term funding plan.
U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, praised the plan calling it "a modest investment for a huge potential return."
Senate ISTEA Hearing--February 26, 1997. Newly appointed Transportation Secretary, Rodney Slater, appeared on Capitol Hill today, facing tough questioning on federal spending for transportation at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing. Today's packed Senate hearing was the first glimpse of what promises to be a major battle over the reauthorization of ISTEA (Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act).
Under fire from Sen. Robert C. Smith (R-N.H.) about using federal highway trust fund money for Amtrak, Slater said that Amtrak is part of the nation's surface transportation system and providing money for it is a legitimate expense. Senator John Chafee (R-R.I.) seemed to agree when he asserted that the solution to the nation's transportation problems "isn't just more concrete."
Slater outlined the administration's proposal, a six year $175 billion package called NEXTEA - the National Economic Crossroads Transportation Efficiency Act. The formula for which states get how much money is at the heart of the ISTEA renewal debate.
William Spay of the American Highway Users Alliance made outrageous claims about the minimal impact on highways if Amtrak shut down between Philadelphia and Washington, DC. Chairman John Chaffee of Rhode Island didn't buy that at all. He grilled Spay about congestion on Interstate 5 between San Diego and Los Angeles. Chaffee said "without Amtrak, the road might still have room for all the cars, but they would only be going 2 mph.
Craig's note:--I would invite Mr. Spay to visit the parking lot known as Interstate I-95 along the northeast corridor. You'll have enough time to smell your coffee, Mr. Spay, because you won't be doing much driving.
TX Eagle/Pioneer--February 24, 1996. Amtrak reportedly is working on mail and express initiatives to preserve both THE TEXAS EAGLE and PIONEER, but such efforts are not likely to bear fruit by the May 10th "train-off" date. Several Texas mayors are asking their state legislators to approve a two-year $5.6 Million loan to Amtrak aimed at keeping THE EAGLE in service after May 10th and the time when significant mail and express business is developed.
Three Rivers May Add Station Stops--February 24, 1997.
I've received word that Amtrak's Three Rivers train will be stoping in the city of Akron, Ohio as early as this spring. The train will arrive after the completion of the construction of a new station/trailer. Plans are also under way within the city of Akron to construct a new multi purpose station to serve Amtrak, the Metro Bus line, Greyhound, (Cleveland) RTA, the Chyahoga Valley Line Railroad, and the proposed area rail-link.
According to various sources, Amtrak may be close to announcing a resolution for each of the three stations in Ohio that used to be BROADWAY LIMITED stops, but which now are skipped by THE THREE RIVERS. They are Youngstown, Akron and Fostoria. There is no news about a fourth stop - the one at Gary, Indiana. Additionally, there is some support including from a local Amish community for a completely new stop at New Castle, PA.
NARP ON THE ADMINISTRATION'S ISTEA PROPOSAL--February 21, 1997. From the NARP (National Association of Railroad Passengers) --
It appears that the Clinton Administration has abandoned plans to include an Amtrak reauthorization as part of the ISTEA reauthorization bill the Administration will send to Capitol Hill.
That is a problem because the Clinton 1998 budget proposal assumes all Amtrak funding -- operating and capital -- will come from the Highway Trust Fund. But using the Highway Trust Fund for Amtrak requires changes in the law (ISTEA) governing the Highway Trust Fund. Administration failure to include such changes in the ISTEA bill means Clinton has no intention of making such changes.
In other words, the Administration is proposing zero funding for Amtrak but is not willing to say so directly.
And, as the Clinton 1998 budget proposal already has implied, there would be no Amtrak gas-tax half-cent in the Clinton ISTEA bill.
Craig's Note: The Clinton Administration's ISTEA proposal, now called NEXTEA, has been modified to include Amtrak.
The Clinton Budget for Amtrak--Feb. 6, 1997. President Clinton's budget for Amtrak for fiscal year 1998 has been released and the numbers are not good. The President's proposed budget includes $767 million for Amtrak, $75 million (9%) below current funding levels. This includes $423 million for captital funding, of which $200 million would go to the Northeast Corridor, $200 million to the rest of the system and $23 million to the Penn Station/New York City project.
You can e-mail the President to express your displeasure with his proposed budget by clicking here
Or you can write President Clinton at:
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
NARP Slams Clinton Budget--February 6, 1997. "When it comes to Amtrak, the nation's intercity rail passenger network, the Clinton Administration is all talk and no action," said Ross B. Capon, Executive Director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers. "Administration officials often say Amtrak's operating grants should end by 2002. But President Clinton's 1998 budget lacks the most crucial tool Amtrak must have to attain operational self-sufficiency -- a dedicated source of capital funding."
"Congress now must set things right," Capon added. "Recognizing the high costs Amtrak's demise would impose on the nation in terms of more spending on transportation alternatives, Congress must create dedicated capital funding for Amtrak (such as from one half-cent of the existing federal gasoline tax), provide enough resources for Amtrak to survive fiscal 1998, enact legislative reforms aimed at Amtrak efficiency and allow states to invest some of their federal transportation funds on intercity passenger rail as part of ISTEA renewal. For passenger rail to survive, Congress must provide the leadership that the Administration has not."
For the full text of the NARP's press release Click Here.
Amtrak-Missouri Announce Flexliner Demonstration Run--February 3, 1997. Amtrak and the Missouri Department of Transportation will operate the Danish-built, high-tech Flexliner passenger train between St. Louis and Kansas City, Mo., from April 8 through May 1, 1997.
Amtrak, in cooperation with international manufacturer Adtranz, is participating in a two-year demonstration tour of the Flexliner, a futuristic passenger train that has been operating in European rail service since 1990. During the tour, Amtrak plans to demonstrate to Americans an example of a unique type of passenger rail equipment being used successfully in Europe which might eventually be used in the United States for short-to-medium-distance intercity markets.
Customers wishing to ride the Flexliner should see an authorized Amtrak travel agent, visit a staffed Amtrak station or call 1-800-USA-RAIL for details on this or any other Amtrak service.
The full press release from Amtrak can be found electronically on
the World Wide Web by:
AMTRAK AND ILLINOIS OFFICIALS ANNOUNCE AGREEMENT THROUGH FY 2000 --January 15, 1997. Amtrak and representatives of the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) have reached agreement on a three-year plan to continue daily state-supported passenger rail service on three corridors radiating from Chicago. Under the plan, subject to legislative appropriation, Amtrak will continue to operate rail passenger service from Chicago to St. Louis, Carbondale and Quincy, Ill.
Specifically, Amtrak is promising to pay financial penalties if individual instances of departures from origin points are more than 30 minutes late and if departures from points of origin are less than 99 percent on time annually.
Also, Amtrak will operate the trains within the service parameters outlined by IDOT including trip times, scheduling and minimum seating capacity on each train. Food service will also be provided on the three services.
Under the plan, the state agrees to pay to Amtrak $7.0 million in 1997-98, $7.55 million in 1998-99 and $7.95 million in 1999-2000.
For the full official press release from Amtrak CLICK HERE.
ASK CONGRESS TO SUPPORT AMTRAK
Please write your representatives in Congress and ask them to do
(1) Support the half-penny of existing federal gas tax for Amtrak's capital funding.
(2) Support giving states the choice to spend some of their federal transportation funds on intercity passenger rail service.
(3) Support Amtrak's request for $245 million in operating funds for fiscal year 1998.
For a list of Senate AND House e-mail addresses you can try THIS ADDRESS.
For a listing of Senate e-mail addresses CLICK HERE
To write your representative in the House CLICK HERE.
The NEW toll free number to the Capitol Hill Switchboard is: 888-723-5246.
HR 4-- "Truth In Budgeting Act" --January 8, 1997--Congress is expected to take up the issue of allocation of transportation trust funds this session. Currently there is over $24 billion in unspent transportation trust funds in the federal coffers. House Transportation Committee Chairman Bud Shuster (R-PA) and ranking committee Democrat James Oberstar (Minn.) have submitted a bill (HR 4) to move the funds off budget. The proposed legislation already has 123 co-sponsors in the House. Similar legislation was passed overwhelmingly by the House in the last session of Congress but never made it through the Senate.
Shuster noted that it might be possible to allocate some trust fund money to Amtrak to support operations. ``I believe there is money there for Amtrak as well. ... You can make a case it's the right thing to do for America,'' said Shuster. Such a move is opposed by highway lobbyists.
Opponents of the legislation would like to leave the funds in the federal budget to be used for deficit reduction while some environmentalists oppose the move because it would lead to more spending on highway projects which, they contend, would damage the environment.
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