Happening Now

Hotline #667

May 3, 1991

Amtrak President Graham Claytor addressed a luncheon of the National Press Club on May 1, on the occasion of Amtrak's 20th anniversary. He outlined where Amtrak has been and where it's going, and named NARP as one of the parties that helped get Amtrak through its political crises in the 1980's. Claytor's remarks were broadcast in full on many public radio stations and may be seen at 6:00 pm Eastern time tomorrow on the C-SPAN One cable television channel. Also, the May Passenger Train Journal and June Trains will devote extensive space to the anniversary. PTJ will include an essay by NARP Executive Director Ross Capon.

The Office of Technology Assessment, which is the research arm of Congress, last week published a report called "Delivering the Goods," which examines how public works projects are funded. The best thing in the OTA report is the assertion that all transportation projects, no matter what the mode, should get the same ratio of federal funding. OTA recommended a 70% federal share. That is wonderful advice for Congress to get as it considers the surface transportation bill. Evening up the federal funding share across all modes would certainly help governors make more rational decisions on what transportation projects to fund and would vastly improve rail's chances.

House Public Works Chairman Robert Roe (D.-N.J.), at a press conference on May 1, reiterated his support for another five-cent increase in highway fuel taxes, which is also supported by House Speaker Tom Foley (D.-Wash.). House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D.-Ill.) favors a ten-cent increase, with five cents going to deficit reduction. As is no surprise to anyone, the trucking industry is already screaming about it. American Trucking Associations spokeswoman Lana Batts said truckers already "gave at the office last fall." Of course, she still hasn't figured out that heavy trucks pay in user fees only 65% of the road damage they create, not to mention their environmental damage. NARP members should support this and any fuel tax increase.

Also, the truckers and state highway officials are already attacking Senator Moynihan's (D.-N.Y.) surface transportation bill, released last week. With its very wide flexibility provisions, the Moynihan bill is extremely important to passenger-train service expansion. We must get the message to Congress that the needs of the traveling public at large, as well as environmental needs, are more important than the interests of the truckers. The truckers stand a very good chance of killing these important provisions if action is not taken now.

There is friction between Amtrak and the State of Wyoming over who should pay for station facilities along the new Pioneer route, set to begin June 13. As in other reroute cases, Amtrak is asking the state and localities to provide facilities, but one state legislator says that helping Amtrak would violate the state constitution. Also, the governor's office wants Amtrak to back the Pioneer in and out of Cheyenne, rather than use a shuttle bus ten miles to Borie. Such a move would be very time-consuming and it is unlikely Union Pacific would support the idea of a passenger train backing up ten miles on one of its busiest lines.

Brewton, Ala., becomes a Gulf Breeze stop June 1.

Today is the last day of operation for Amtrak's Calumet commuter train.

After less than five months in operation, the Trancisco Tours private train between San Jose and Reno has been suspended. Passengers holding reservations will get refunds. Poor demand for the service was blamed. Some of the equipment, much of it recently refurbished, will go to a train Trancisco plans to operate with Holland America Line in British Columbia.

A recent independent poll sponsored by the Automobile Club of Oregon showed that 80% of those polled in that state oppose allowing the use of triple 28-foot or double 48-foot truck trailers in tandem.

The Jefferson County, Colo., board in March approved a grant of $7,500 to study commuter rail service from Golden, 16 miles into Denver.

Negotiations are proceeding on extending New Jersey Transit Atlantic City line commuter trains into Philadelphia 30th Street Station. It could happen as early as October.

Delaware Transportation Day is May 11 and Amtrak will display Metroliner equipment at Wilmington station from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, including the new conference car. Also, for National Transportation Week, Amtrak will display a train at Portland, Ore., Union Station on May 15.

Washington Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon is the featured speaker when ceremonies are held to open Metro's Green Line on May 11. Public events will be held at Shaw station at 7:30 am and U Street at 9:00 am. Free rides from those two stations and Mount Vernon Square will be available from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm and the entire Metro system, including the new segment, will open an hour early that day, at 7:00 am. The Green Line is, until May 11, the last unopened line on the Metro system.

San Diego's Metropolitan Transit Development Board has approved purchase of 75 new light-rail vehicles at $1.5 million apiece, to begin arriving in January 1993.