Happening Now

Hotline #784

July 30, 1993

The 1994 DOT appropriations bill was expected on the House floor today -- but has been postponed yet again. It is possible it could go next week, but if it is further delayed, it will go to September. On July 27, it was re-released from the Appropriations Committee with the bad Tauzin language cutting Amtrak operations by $20 million and giving it to the Coast Guard. However, the bad anti-Thruway bus language has been neutralized. Its bill number was changed from H.R.2490 to H.R.2750.

When and if H.R.2750 goes to the floor, we do not expect any Amtrak-related amendments. However, we hope that some of our friends will make floor statements expressing disappointment at the cut in Amtrak funding, so that the Senate and the conferees at least hear that message. As for the Senate, every House delay increases the probability we will not see any Senate bill until September.

H.R.1919, the High-Speed Corridor Development bill, was approved by the full House Energy and Commerce Committee on July 27, on a mostly partisan vote of 28-16. Support for the bill is actually bigger, but many Republicans resented last-minute application of Davis-Bacon Act provisions, which specify that construction contracts pay wages at a prevailing regional level.

The flood situation is always changing. The California Zephyr has returned to its normal Burlington route, but with some delay. The Southwest Chief is not running east of Albuquerque, but may run through to Kansas City this weekend. The Illinois Zephyr still terminates in Quincy. There is no Kansas City-St. Louis-Carbondale service. The Texas Eagle is running on Illinois Central and Union Pacific via Cairo and Memphis. There is a stub train for the Eagle between Chicago and St. Louis, with bus for stations between St. Louis and Little Rock.

Despite the flooding, the opening tomorrow of the St. Louis light-rail line is still going on as planned.

The Amtrak board met July 28. While June revenues were up compared to last year, when there was a strike, year-to-date, there is still an operating shortfall of $28 million compared to budget.

Sources in Canada indicate that expected cuts in VIA Rail funding may be deeper -- and come more quickly -- than originally thought. VIA is already a skeleton of what it was prior to the extensive January 1990 cuts.

The ICE is being tested on the Northeast Corridor. It hit 162 mph in New Jersey on a test trip on July 18, and 162 mph again on July 24 on another trip that included Senator Lautenberg, President Claytor, reporters, a member of the NARP staff, and others. Other, shorter press and Congressional trips were made this week. On August 4, the ICE leaves Washington at 8:30 am, arrives Pittsburgh 3:45 pm. On August 7, it leaves Pittsburgh 8:00 am, stops at Harrisburg from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm, and arrives at Philadelphia at 7:00 pm.

The X2000 is on display in Montreal today and Quebec tomorrow. It returns to Washington at 7:30 am on August 2. On August 5, it returns to weekday revenue service as Metroliners 106 and 117.

Other Germans set a new speed record for a maglev with passengers aboard. A Transrapid vehicle attained 280 mph in June on the test track at Emsland, breaking the previous record of 255 mph. Still, the political uncertainty over a proposed Berlin-Hamburg line remains, according to recent press. The railroad record stands at 322 mph, set by a French TGV.