Hotline #1,051

Amtrak Engineer in DuPont Lost Situational Awareness; Brightline Begins to Increase Safety Efforts; Amtrak to Remove Parlor Cars; DOJ Leaves Room for OTP Case

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Based on details collected by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the engineer who was running the Amtrak Cascades train that derailed in DuPont, WA last month said he lost situational awareness and did not realize the train was coming up on the curve. The information released by the NTSB is based on an interview with the Amtrak engineer and the conductor, who were together at the time of the derailment. Both men said they were rested at the start of their shifts, and neither one was distracted before the train came upon the curve where it derailed, which resulted in the deaths of three people, including two RPA members - Jim Hamre and Zack Willhoite. The train was traveling at 78 mph before it derailed on the curve, which has a speed limit of 30 mph. NTSB previously said that Positive Train Control (PTC) technology, which can slow and stop trains that are speeding, could have helped prevent the accident from happening.

“This report only further highlights that PTC needs to be a priority,” said Jim Mathews, Rail Passenger Association President. “Congress must insist on the current deadline and they have to fund this so that it can be implemented. People’s lives are at stake and PTC can help.”

According to a press release issued by the NTSB, the conductor, 48 and hired by Amtrak in 2010, said he was looking at paperwork when he heard the engineer “say or mumble something” and “then looked up and sensed that the train was becoming ‘airborne.’”

The engineer, 55 and hired by Amtrak in 2004, said he had planned to apply the brakes one mile ahead of the curve, but he did not see the milepost that would have prompted him to do so. The engineer also said he mistook a signal marking the curve for a different one located beyond the curve. By the time the engineer saw the 30 mph sign at the start of the curve, he applied brakes, but it was far too late.

The NTSB said that the accounts by the engineer and the conductor “are just two sources of information that will be considered as the investigation progresses.” The investigation into the derailment is expected to continue for 12-24 months, with NTSB investigators looking at signals and train control, track and engineering, mechanical, crashworthiness, survival factors and recorders.

After the Washington State accident, Rep. Peter Defazio (D-Oregon) introduced H.R. 4766 in January 2018. The bill that would increase implementation and funding for PTC. The Rail Passengers Association supports passage of the bill.

Make Plans NOW To Attend RPA’s Spring 2018 Advocacy Summit and ‘Day on The Hill’: Annual Congressional Reception and Meeting - Sunday, April 15 to Wednesday, April 18, 2018

This is THE opportunity of the year for rail passenger advocates to have their voices heard directly by the decision makers on Capitol Hill.

  • Event registration is now available!
  • The host hotel is the Hilton Old Town Alexandria, located adjacent to the King Street Metro & Alexandria Amtrak Stations. Discounted group rate room reservations are now available!

  • RPA’s ‘Day on The Hill’ is Tuesday, April 17. The Annual RPA Congressional Reception will be held that evening from 5:30pm - 7:30pm.

With only two weeks’ notice, Amtrak abruptly announced that it will retire the historic Pacific Parlour Car from the Coast Starlight. The Pacific Parlour Car has a long history and a devoted base of customers thanks to an array of premium features including the lounge, the full bar, the dining area, and at one time a small theater space on the lower level.

Amtrak’s decision enraged passengers and advocates across the country, generating numerous complaints and pushback from ardent rail passenger advocates and members of this Association.

The situation was complicated by a bungled announcement in which a public statement said definitively that the car was only temporarily out of service even after the decision had been made to make it permanent. The disconnect between the reality on the ground and the public announcements left many passengers and advocates frustrated and angry. Amtrak’s decision comes as part of the railroad’s effort to modernize its fleet.

“While we understand and strongly support Amtrak’s overarching goal to upgrade and modernize its rail cars, we also think that providing only two weeks’ notice is a missed opportunity for the company to provide a special, and likely revenue-positive, send-off to a beloved piece of passenger rail in the U.S.,” said RPA President Jim Mathews. “Too many of our members will not even have a chance to book a final ride on their favored equipment.”

For many who might be wondering why the Parlour Car is being retired, although they are operationally compatible with all of the other double-level Superliner cars Amtrak operates on long-distance trains, their age and configuration make them unique and they require a much higher level of ongoing maintenance and require higher repair expenses.

Amtrak’s new management team under CEO Richard Anderson is committed to pushing ahead with a fleet-wide renewal plan, especially for the long-distance equipment, and given the scarce capital resources and difficult funding environment Anderson decided to focus dollars and available resources on refurbishing or replacing the entire Superliner fleet -- which will benefit, ultimately, many more Amtrak riders. RPA strongly supports a fleet-renewal plan and will advocate vigorously for a fleet-renewal program.

Anderson says that the millions of dollars in annual cash maintenance expenses, plus the need for additional millions for extensive interior replacement, sealed the Cars’ fate. Amtrak’s Anderson told RPA’s Mathews that those additional millions amount to “money we cannot afford to put in 60-year-old assets….We need to prioritize investment in a new fleet for Amtrak instead of investing millions in maintaining old cars that need massive interior overhauls.”

Part of that investment includes considering aggressive plans to refurbish Superliner Is and Superliner IIs throughout the Amtrak system. “In terms of priority? The need is...the rolling stock and the first priority on the rolling stock is the Superliner Is and IIs,” Anderson told attendees at RPA’s RailNation-Chicago event in November.

“Those cars go into overhaul every four years...the trucks come off, they’re replaced, they replace all of the pneumatics and a lot of the repairables on the car. The real question is could you go in and what kind of scope should you reasonably do on a per-car basis to really do a big renovation of the interiors?” Anderson said at RailNation. “I don't know what that would entail, we’d have to do some engineering but it would be a lot easier to do it on a rail car than on an airplane!”

Anderson led Delta Airlines and presided over the 2008 merger of Delta and Northwest Airlines.

In recent years, Amtrak has removed the Parlour Cars from service each winter (during the slow travel period), in order to complete maintenance and safety-related projects which couldn't be accomplished when they were in active daily service. This was again the plan announced by Amtrak for this winter season, before last week's sudden change of plans and the announcement that the cars would be retired for good.

For Train 14, the last day of service for the Parlour Car is a week from today, February 2. For Train 11, the last day of service for the Parlour Car is February 4. Due to high demand, an additional Parlour Car trip has been added on Wednesday, January 31, leaving from Los Angeles and Friday, February 2 leaving from Seattle. Through February 4, the Parlour Car will continue to operate on Thursdays and Fridays departing from Los Angeles, and on Saturdays and Sundays departing from Seattle.

Meanwhile, any of our members who wish to make their feelings known about the Parlour Car can send an email message to Mr. Robert Dorsch, the new VP for Long Distance service at Amtrak ([email protected]). There is also a petition underway from California’s RailPAC, which you can sign by going to .

New York subway passengers will be able to enjoy riding modern, state-of-the-art subway cars with more room starting in 2020, after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Board approved to purchase 535 next-generation R211 subway cars from Kawasaki Rail Car Inc. The new cars will be used on the subway’s lettered routes, as well as on the Staten Island Railway. Of the 535 cars, 440 are new, closed-end cars for the B Division, 75 are closed-end cars for Staten Island Railway, and 20 are open gangway cars. The open gangway cars will be part of a pilot program for MTA New York City Transit, and they will allow passengers to move between cars.

"It is imperative that we provide a first-in-class subway car that can live up to the rigor and expectations of New Yorkers," said MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota in a press release. "As part of our commitment to modernize the subway system, we have expanded and accelerated this contract to provide more reliable, more comfortable train cars that are easier to board and exit and provide more useful real-time information to riders."

The purchase of the new cars, which cost $1.4 billion, will be funded by the Federal Transit Administration. The MTA also included options for up to 1,077 additional cars. If the options are exercised, the total purchase would go up to 1,612 cars, at a cost of $3.7 billion, pending future Board approval. The cars will be built and tested in Kawasaki facilities in Yonkers, NY, and Lincoln, NE, and the delivery of the new cars for testing will begin in 2020.

Officials throughout upstate New York are concerned that their transit agencies will lose out on significant state funding under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s newly proposed budget for 2018-2019. As it stands now, Governor Cuomo proposed a 7.5 percent increase for MTA in New York City, which will help repair the city’s subway and bus lines. But should that increase take place, officials from the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, the Rochester Regional Transit Service and other upstate agencies in Buffalo, Syracuse and Albany say they will see a decrease in funding for their services.

One major example of a loss in funding is NFTA, which is expected to lose $1.7 million in overall funding under Cuomo’s new plan. NFTA Executive Director Kimberley A. Minkel said that while transit across upstate can expect a one percent increase in operating assistance, funds for NFTA capital projects will decrease by $2.2 million in the authority’s $234.2 million budget.

Assemblyman Sean M. Ryan, D-Buffalo, said the Governor Cuomo’s proposal marks, “just the beginning of the budget process,” for developing an appropriate budget for the state. He also said that upstate New York agencies did receive an increase in funding in 2015 through 2017.

Supreme Court Action on Freight Delays

Justice Dept. Cracks The Door Open For Supreme Court Freight-Delay Action

The Justice Dept. has advised the Supreme Court that it does not “at this time” support review of the Association’s on-time performance case, but at the same time mostly agreed with RPA’s position on the merits of our claim – which leaves the door open for the Court to hold our petitions until a federal appeals court rules on metrics and standards issues in a related case filed by the American Association of Railroads.

The office of the Solicitor General – the third-ranking official in the Justice Dept. and the federal government’s designated attorney for arguments before the Supreme Court – filed a brief opposing the request by Amtrak and a coalition of rail-passenger advocates led by RPA for the Supreme Court to hear our case through a process known as petitioning for a “writ of certiorari.” RPA filed its cert petition, through its counsel and partner the Environmental Law and Policy Center, on November 10, which would have paved the way for enforcement of on-time performance standards for passenger rail.

“It’s a disappointing delay,” said Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews, “but by agreeing on the merits of our case and supporting our alternate suggestion that the petitions be held until a later date, the Solicitor General created some space in which passengers’ rights may yet see vindication in the Supreme Court.”

The Solicitor General has tremendous sway over the cert process. Each year the Court grants review to only between 75 and 125 of the more than 7,500 petitions submitted each term, but when the Solicitor General supports a cert petition it is very often granted. Likewise, in this instance, it’s likely the Court will choose not to hear our case at this time.

Even so, the Trump Administration’s Solicitor General told the Court that “the government does not oppose petitioners’ alternative suggestion (17-699 Pet. 32-33) that the petitions be held pending the D.C. Circuit’s resolution of Association of American Railroads.”

More important, the Solicitor General agreed with the core claims at the heart of our case: that the prior courts erred in gutting the protections of the 2008 Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) and that STB can set and enforce standards to protect rail passengers.

“The government agrees with petitioners that Section 213, properly construed, authorizes the STB to develop a standard through rulemaking for ‘on-time performance’ as one of two statutory triggers under 49 U.S.C. 24308(f )(1). As petitioners explain (17-699 Pet. 20), that construction of Section 213 is most consistent with ‘PRIIA’s text, structure, and purposes.’ See 17-699 Pet. 20-31; 17-714 Pet. 10-12,” the Solicitor General said in its brief.

“The Eighth Circuit’s decision to invalidate the STB’s final rule based on a contrary reading of Section 213 was erroneous,” the brief continued. “That decision, in combination with the D.C. Circuit’s decision striking down on constitutional grounds the metrics and standards established under Section 207, leaves a significant gap in the scheme Congress created by enacting PRIIA, thereby threatening the quality of passenger rail service nationwide. See 17-699 Pet. 15-18.”

Your Association has been arguing since the rulings last summer that the appeals courts’ decisions thwarted Congress’ core intent in PRIIA, leaving passengers without any recourse, and RPA is gratified to see that the Justice Dept.’s third-ranking official recognizes this fact.

"When the DC Circuit nullified Section 207 last year, it took away FRA’s power to develop on-time performance standards. Then the Eighth Circuit this summer interpreted Section 213 in a way that eviscerated the power of the Surface Transportation Board, which was the only agency left to carry out Congress’ assignment to improve on-time performance,” Mathews said. “The two courts’ moves together have left no agency remaining to fulfill Congress’ statutory mandate in PRIIA to enforce those standards.”

For decades, rail passengers have been left waiting for freight trains to clear the rails. Even acts of Congress haven’t been able to budge them out of the way.

“We need the courts to now recognize and allow Congress’ goal to be carried out,” Mathews continued. “The law creating Amtrak in the early 1970s codified a deal these railroads made with the American taxpayer: we’ll relieve you of your common-carrier responsibility for passenger service, and in exchange you’ll ensure those passenger trains get where they need to go on time. It has been a battle ever since.”

President Trump said he will share details of his proposed infrastructure plan during his State of the Union address next week. Trump made the announcement during a meeting with several U.S. mayors, and also said that the proposed plan could actually be for $1.7 trillion, as opposed to his originally touted $1-trillion proposal. White House officials had previously said that the proposal would be released in Spring 2017, which was later moved to end of January.

“If President Trump does disclose the administration infrastructure proposal next week, we look forward to reviewing it in detail and see if or how it supports passenger rail projects in the U.S.,” said RPA President Jim Mathews. “Rail brings jobs, economic activity and modal flexibility to America, including and especially rural areas that often have few other travel options. The federal government can play an important role as a lead investor to unlock the potential of the private sector and connect local areas to the national economy.”

Trump made the announcement on Wednesday of this week, shortly after a draft of what was purported to be the proposal’s principles was leaked to Axios. The White House did not comment on the leaked document, which was also not dated, that focused on the transportation needs of the nation, as well as water infrastructure and Veterans Affairs facilities.

The Hill also obtained a copy of the leaked document and provided five takeaways on the plan:

  1. The sources of revenue for supporting the plan are unclear.
  2. The Highway Trust Fund was not mentioned.
  3. The proposal pushes for the expansion of public-private partnerships.
  4. The proposal may have a way to support rural regions.
  5. The source of the draft and when it was created are not clear.

The leaked draft envisions directing 50 percent of federal expenditures towards “incentives grant,” which would provide only a 20 percent federal match and ask states to increase local funding. Infrastructure experts have voiced doubt about the ability of states to find the extra funding, calling into question whether the proposal would significantly address the crisis facing US infrastructure.

Another 25 percent of the infrastructure grants would be reserved for rural infrastructure, including transportation, power grids, and water and sewer systems among other eligibilities.

In an effort to revamp and improve NJ Transit, and rebuild passengers’ trust in the agency, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed an Executive Order for a full-scale audit of NJ Transit. According to a press release issued by Governor Murphy’s office, the audit will include a review the agency's finances, leadership structure, hiring process and customer service. The governor hopes that the results of the audit will allow the agency to improve upon its service and relationships with riders. The Executive Order calls for the audit to be completed as expeditiously as possible.

“I have made it clear that we will not accept business as usual at NJ Transit. Today, we begin the process of rebuilding the agency from the ground up,” Governor Murphy said in the press release. “The public deserves a true accounting for how this once-model agency has fallen so far, so fast — as do those of us in government, with the ultimate responsibility for this system, who have largely been kept in the dark. Commuters cannot be left waiting for answers. And, neither will I.”

The audit will also include a look at NJ Transit's connections with Amtrak, as well as the implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC) on its network. The technology, which can remotely monitor, slow and stop trains, was not implemented in recent accidents that NJ Transit has experienced, including the fatal accident in Hoboken in September 2016.

In addition to the Executive Order, though unconfirmed, Governor Murphy is expected to name Kevin Corbett as executive director of NJ Transit. Corbett would replace Steven Santoro, who previously said that he will retire in April of this year. Corbett is currently the vice president of strategic development in the Northeast for AECOM.

In New England, Amtrak Coastal Connection could start running to Rockland, ME this summer, said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA). Quinn spoke with the Newcastle Select Board and said that the line would need financial support from NNEPRA and communities along the route to bring service back, but the passenger trains could use the infrastructure that is already in place, which are mostly in good shape due to recent upgrades. Bath, Wiscasset, Newcastle, and Rockland would be the stops along the route.

Quinn said during the meeting, “The line was rehabilitated by a state and federal project back about 15 years ago, and is really in very good shape. It’s a solid piece of infrastructure that has been maintained.”

Passenger rail on the route to Rockland stopped in 2015, after a contract between the state and Maine Eastern Railroad ended. But if the Authority is able to get appropriate levels of support, the plan is to start one trip on Friday evenings and two trips Saturday and Sunday. In addition, NNEPRA would make efforts to get the Amtrak Great Dome Car on the route to show of the beautiful scenery of the state.

“I’d like to congratulate NNEPRA and TrainRiders/Northeast for their hard work getting this route extension off the ground,” says RPA Northeast Field Coordinator Joseph Aiello. “Seeing what the Downeaster has been able to do for the economic development of the cities and towns along its current route, I’m excited to see the benefits Rockland and the other stops would receive from this service expansion. My hope is that the popularity will be enough to warrant the addition of more daily runs in the future.”

Portrait of a Passenger: Use Our Facebook Photo Frame to Show Your Support for Passenger Rail

We want it to be known that U.S. travelers and commuters are frustrated by trains that are late, equipment that is falling apart, and service that is far too skeletal and infrequent. Rail Passengers Association is doing its best to advocate for equitable funding to solve these problems that affect millions of people. But, we can’t do it alone.

Help us raise awareness for the federal government’s lackluster transportation priorities by applying our “Portrait of a Passenger” Facebook photo frame to your profile photo.

This photo frame is an adaptation of our new window logo and can be applied over your current profile photo on Facebook. To apply this frame to your profile photo is easy, all you need to do is visit this link and it takes you through the process step-by-step:

Amtrak trains, Blue State and Wolverine traveling between Detroit, Port Huron and Chicago can now reach speeds up to 110 mph following extensive infrastructure improvements along the routes. With the new upgrades and reachable speeds, the trip time can be reduced by as much as 20 minutes between the two cities. In addition, about seven minutes can be dropped for the route from Port Huron to Chicago.

“The upgrades made on these two routes highlights that appropriate support and maintenance can go a long way in the efficiency of passenger trains,” said RPA President and CEO Jim Mathews. “Reducing travel time is a truly great benefit for passengers, and we hope that other infrastructure improvement programs can generate the same results in other areas of the country.”

The upgrades were part of a $384-million investment program by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). The improvements first began in 2012, after MDOT acquired 135 miles of railway between Kalamazoo and Dearborn from Virginia-based Norfolk Southern. Along these routes, travel time is expected to be reduced even more after implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC) and the addition of new locomotives, which are to be put in use later this year.

Without calling for fare hikes or service cuts, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), has proposed a FY 2019 budget of $3.2 billion. WMATA’s proposal requests nearly $1.9 billion for operations, which would be supported by $1 billion in additional funding from Maryland, Virginia and D.C., as well as $828 million from passenger fares, parking fees, advertising revenues and other projected revenue. WMATA also proposed $1.3 billion for its Capital Improvement Program to upgrade and repair the rail network, and to increase safety improvements. The agency has been dealing with these issues for years, most recently with its very high-profile SafeTrack initiative to maintain the network following multiple accidents and frequent train delays and service interruptions. Specific improvements include the continued delivery of new 7000-series rail cars, and new buses and paratransit vehicles, as well as maintenance and repairs of tracks, metro stations and rail power systems.

In the proposal, WMATA officials said that the agency, "faces structural challenges associated with past underinvestment in the maintenance, rehabilitation and replacement of the system's infrastructure and an unsustainable operating model.”

WMATA's fiscal year 2019 budget will take effect in July, but the agency will accept and take into consideration public opinion on the budget through February 5.

County officials in Southwest Virginia are looking at the possibility of establishing the return of Amtrak service to the region - specifically Roanoke to Bristol - to continue the areas push for increased tourism. Discussions about passenger rail service were had last week by officials from both Washington County and Bristol, which included the industrial development authority (IDA) boards of both localities, as well as Bristol Mayor Kevin Mumpower, Washington County Board of Supervisors Chairman Saul Hernandez, County Administrator Jason Berry and others. At the moment, officials are interested in hiring a consulting firm to conduct an in-depth impact study, which Bristol officials have already requested.

Upcoming Regional Rail Passenger and State Passengers Association Member Meetings & Events

  • Saturday, January 27 - Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers Meeting - Haslett, MI
  • Monday, January 29 - Massachusetts State Rail Plan Public Meeting - Worcester, MA
  • Tuesday, February 1 - Trains In The Valley Meeting - Greenfield, MA
  • Saturday, March 10 - Empire State Passengers Association & Rail Passengers Association Annual New York State Meeting & Lunch - Schenectady, NY
  • Saturday, March 24 - Rail Passengers Association New England Regional Meeting - Boston, MA

Please contact Bruce Becker to have a local, state or regional event or meeting added to the RPA calendar of upcoming events!

Following commitments made last Friday by Brightline officials to increase pedestrian safety, the company placed large electronic signs at several busy rail crossings. The signs, which remind people that passenger trains are traveling at higher speeds, are one part of the company’s effort to prevent attempts to cross tracks as the higher-speed trains pass through communities. Another plan of action Brightline will soon incorporate includes utilizing “safety ambassadors” at key crossings to let people know to be aware of trains and stay off the tracks.

“Having been on and seen Brightline’s service first hand, I know that the company is making every effort possible to increase safety along its route and at intersections,” said RPA President Jim Mathews. “We hope that the company’s safety messages reach community members who may not be aware that trains could be traveling close to 100 mph as they approach. Knowing this could help prevent future accidents.”

The message of safety from Brightline has become an important issue in Florida after three people were struck by a Brightline train after the company launched passenger service on January 13. Two of the accidents were fatal. In all three incidents, police said the people who were hit did not pay attention to the warning lights and crossing gates installed at the rail crossings.

In addition to the company’s own increased safety efforts, Brightline’s President and Chief Operating Officer Patrick Goddard requested help from Brightline opponents to help spread its message of safety to the communities along the trains’ route. Goddard made the request in a letter to Citizens Against Rail Expansion (CARE) Chairman Brent Hanlon. The organization has been an opponent of the Brightline train for years, and has been advocating to stop the company’s second phase of development between West Palm Beach and Orlando.

Goddard said in his letter that Brightline is, “making this request of CARE because your website and marketing materials state, ‘Safety is one of our top concerns. What better way to communicate this message than to drop our political differences in the interest of working together for the betterment of our communities, schools and residents. A partnership like this would establish an unparalleled example of compromise and commitment to doing what is right.

Some Florida state lawmakers are proposing new regulations on “high-speed rail” companies - although it is important to note that Brightline is not a high-speed rail line. Two Florida politicians that have proposed two new pieces of legislation include Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Rockledge and Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach. These are in addition to U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, who last week called for Brightline to shut down its passenger railroad until its "safety flaws" are fixed. TCPalm provided highlights of each lawmaker’s bill:

RPA President and CEO Jim Mathews responded to Brightline opponents last week, in which he wrote, “Everyone can agree that safety should be paramount for railroads. We can’t take risks with people’s lives.

“Unfortunately, for their own political ends, some anti-rail advocates are making dangerous public comments that suggest it is acceptable for pedestrians and vehicles to trespass on train tracks. What’s worse, elected officials have introduced legislation in Florida that would hamper rail projects that would actually increase safety in our transportation system.

“Whether it's the Association of American Railroads or the Federal Railroad Administration or safety groups like Operation Lifesaver, practically everyone involved has been working for years to get people off the rights-of-way. Recent pedestrian accidents involving the new Brightline in trains in Florida highlight that need.”

To read Mathews’ response in full, please see last week’s Hotline and look for, “Unsafety Advocates.”

Nominations Now Open For 2018 ‘At-Large’ RPA Council of Representative Seats And RPA Officer & Director Positions

RPA/NARP is inviting members in good-standing to consider running for one of the up-to 10 available ‘At-Large’ positions on the Council of Representatives (the Association’s volunteer governing body). These positions are for a two-year term commencing immediately upon election by the State Representatives at the Council of Representatives Annual Business Meeting being held on Wednesday, April 18, 2018, in Alexandria, VA.

Any RPA/NARP member who has paid dues for at least one year, is at least 18 years of age and is a U.S. resident is eligible to self-nominate and seek a seat to be elected at the April meeting. The Council consists of 112 elected state representatives, up-to 10 elected ‘At-Large’ representatives and up-to 15 elected Board Officers and Directors.

The Council of Representatives represents the RPA/NARP membership in setting and approving the overall policy and direction for the Association. For more information on these ‘At-Large’ positions, including the duties, responsibilities and required qualifications, go to:

In addition, self-nominations are now being sought from qualified members interested in being elected by the Council of Representatives at the April Council Annual Business Meeting to an Association officer position (Chair of the Board; one of four Vice-Chairs; Treasurer or Secretary) or to one of three available Board Director positions. Board officer positions are for a two-year term and the Board director positions are for a three-year term, both commencing at the conclusion of April’s Annual Business Meeting. For complete information on these Board Officer & Director positions, including the duties, responsibilities and required qualifications, go to:

To complete and submit the required ‘At-Large’ Representative and Board Officer & Director Candidate Information Statement form, go to:

The deadline to submit a Candidate Information Statement for any position is March 31, 2018.

Following the appointment of Brian Kelly as CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, Governor Jerry Brown named Joseph Hedges to the position of Chief Operating Officer. In addition, Pamela Mizukami was named Chief Deputy Director for the Authority.

“I’m excited to welcome Joe and Pam to the High-Speed Rail leadership team. I made a commitment to the Board of Directors to bring in highly-qualified professionals to continue the transformation of the Authority from a planning organization to a strong project oversight and delivery organization. Joe and Pam have the necessary qualifications to help us get this done,” Kelly said in a press release from the Authority.

The two additions expand the Authority’s executive team as the organization transitions from the planning phase of the HSR line to construction and delivery. As COO, Hedges will ensure that all construction and engineering elements of the high-speed rail program are delivered within scope, with quality standards, on budget and on schedule throughout the duration of the project. In her new role, Mizukami will serve as chief advisor to the CEO on programmatic and administrative matters. Mizukami, who has been assisting the Authority and the California State Transportation Agency in improving the Authority’s administrative functions, will oversee its internal and personnel operations.

Governor Brown also discussed the high-speed rail project in his last State of the State address in California. In his speech, Governor Brown said that the rail line will be built despite billions of dollars in budget overruns during its first phase of development. The first phase is currently under development in the Central Valley, and now has an estimated cost of $10.6 billion. He also said that continuing to build the HSR line will be cheaper than building additional freeways and new airports in the state.

“Like any big project, there are obstacles. There were for the Bay Area Rapid Transit System, for the Golden Gate Bridge, and for the Panama Canal. I’ll pass over in silence the time it took to build the Bay Area bridge, that was almost 20 years and by the way, it was over budget by $6 billion, on a $1 billion project,” Governor Brown said in his address.

Governor Brown continued by highlighting the economic benefits of the HSR project. Governor Brown said, “Already, more than 1,500 construction workers are on the job at 17 sites and hundreds of California businesses are providing services, generating thousands of job years of employment. As the global economy puts more Americans out of work and lowers wages, infrastructure projects like this will be a key source of well-paid California jobs.”

The potential for Amtrak service extending to south central Kansas has gained steam this week as the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) requested that Amtrak move forward with an economic study. The study will include a look at projected costs and ridership numbers associated with extending Amtrak service on the Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City north to Wichita and Newton, where it would connect with the existing Southwest Chief line. State officials, as well as Amtrak officials are hopeful for the line. Amtrak said that a connecting bus line that was established in Wichita in 2016, has had good ridership. Officials are also interested in expansion as the service could bring in new tourism, while also providing service to students at Wichita State, Oklahoma State and the University of Oklahoma.