Happening Now

Hotline #785

August 6, 1993

Congress adjourns today for its summer recess, to return after Labor Day. H.R.2750, the House 1994 transportation appropriations bill, was not acted upon this week, thereby delaying any further action in either house until September. Write your Senator during August to ask for better Amtrak funding than it got in the House! The August newsletter, which has more on H.R.2750, was mailed today, second-class.

The final form of the budget reconciliation took shape this week and was approved in the House last night by only two votes. The Senate is expected to pass it by an even narrower margin today. Fortunately, it appears that railroads have been successful in lobbying against Senate language that would have put their additional 4.3-cent fuel tax into the Highway Trust Fund. Instead, it will go to deficit reduction (general revenues).

It also appears that airlines will be exempt from the new 4.3-cent fuel tax for two years, but Amtrak will have to pay it -- even though Amtrak is twice as fuel-efficient as airlines. However, all railroads will get a reduction of 1.25 cents from the 2.5 cents they have paid since 1990. Still, this bill will increase Amtrak's operating costs by about $3 million a year, a situation exacerbated by the low operating figure in H.R.2750. Commuter trains and intercity buses are exempt.

A gas tax of 4.3 cents, which is so small it will not even be noticed by consumers, was approved over the loud objections of several Senators. The mode that proportionally pays its way the least, inland waterways, had its proposed fuel taxes disappear altogether.

In the flood zone, the California Zephyr is back on its normal route, but subject to delay. The Southwest Chief is not running east of Kansas City, because there are still 10 miles of Santa Fe line underwater near Marcelline, Mo. There is no Kansas City-St. Louis-Carbondale train service, but buses from St. Louis connect with the Southwest Chief and City of New Orleans. The Texas Eagle is running via Champaign, Cairo, Memphis, and Little Rock, with a local train between Chicago and St. Louis and a local bus from St. Louis to Little Rock. The Illinois Zephyr will not return to West Quincy until September.

For the first time since 1966, streetcars are rolling in St. Louis. The new light-rail line, called MetroLink, opened July 31, in the midst of the worst ever flooding in that area.

The ICE will be on public display in Harrisburg tomorrow, 2:30 pm to 4:00 pm. It will stop at Lancaster at 5:15 pm and Philadelphia 7:00 pm. On August 8, it is on display at Philadelphia from 12:00 noon to 5:00 pm. On August 12, it is on display at Albany from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm. On August 13, it leaves at 10:00 am, passing Erie at 5:00 pm, Cleveland 7:00 pm, and Toledo 9:00 pm. On August 14 it is on display at Toledo from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon, and arrives at Dearborn at 3:40 pm. On August 15, it is on display at Dearborn from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm.

Armistead Rood, a Washington lawyer whose career was closely connected to the rail industry, died August 2 at the age of 83. Rood was a passionate supporter of the Boston Central Artery rail link, a proposal he worked on 15 years ago as senior advisor to the United States Railway Association. In fact, he had advocated it back in 1950 when the current artery was built! It is good that Rood lived long enough to see the logjam over the rail link begin to break, as it has this year.