Happening Now

Hotline #668

May 10, 1991

There is still great danger that the pro-Amtrak language in S.965, Senator Moynihan's (D.-N.Y.) surface transportation bill, may be dropped. That language, which would give intercity passenger and freight rail access to the Highway Trust Fund for the first time ever, has come under attack from the trucking industry and state highway officials. There is danger that an amendment will be offered limiting the rail language to commuter rail and maglev only. That would be a great tragedy. Contact your Senator as soon as possible on keeping S.965's pro-Amtrak language, especially if he is one of the following on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee -- Burdick, Moynihan, Mitchell, Baucus, Lautenberg, Reid, Graham, Lieberman, Metzenbaum, Chafee, Simpson, Symms, Durenberger, Warner, Jeffords, and Smith.

Meanwhile, on the House side of the Hill, House Public Works Chairman Robert Roe (D.-N.J.) indicated he supports the pro-rail language for the House bill, which has not yet been released.

Without getting into specifics, House Public Works Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Norman Mineta (D.-Cal.) said in a hearing on May 8 that the House bill will address big trucks. S.965 in the Senate does not, nor did the Administration's proposed bill. Mineta is probably sympathetic to our anti-big-truck views, but it wouldn't hurt for him to hear it again from our members.

Sen. Bob Graham (D.-Fla.) spent April 8 working a ten-hour shift as a conductor on a Tri-Rail commuter train. He also got to help wash cars at Hialeah and spoke to dozens of passengers about the successful south Florida commuter line.

Virginia Railway Express will go down to the wire starting its service up this fall. Late this winter, the commuter agency was told by its Brazilian car manufacturer that it cannot deliver the new cars in time. VRE then tried to buy some surplus cars from MBTA in Boston, but those cars were bought by MBTA with UMTA funds. UMTA requires environmental impact statements on car funds it provides, a step VRE elected to avoid because of the red tape. VRE and UMTA are still talking, but if no cars are found, the commuter lines cannot open on schedule October 27.

Washington Metro is still on for tomorrow morning for opening festivities to open the Green Line subway in the Shaw and U Street neighborhoods. The new U Street station at 13th & U is in a corner of the curfew zone put into place by Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon after rioting earlier this week.

A bill has been introduced in the Alabama Senate to study light rail for Birmingham.

Bad news last week for the Orange County-Las Vegas maglev. The Los Angeles Times reported that the Bechtel Corporation, which recently won enough reconstruction contracts in Kuwait to keep it busy for quite some time, said that raising bond money for the $5-billion project is become a major headache and perhaps even impossible. A major Japanese investor in the project may pull out and the Transrapid maglev to be used in the project has had plenty of political and technical problems of its own back in Germany. The Times said some California transportation authorities think the state's resources should be committed to connect Californians with high-speed service, rather than Las Vegas.

NARP Region 3 meets at Philadelphia 30th Street Station on May 18 at 11:00 am. Speakers include NARP Assistant Director Scott Leonard, Bill Parkin of Pennsylvania DOT, and Al Harf of New Jersey Transit.