Hotline #948

The challenge of seeing that passenger rail is restored to the Gulf Coast has been handled by the Southern Rail Commission (SRC), a group whose members were appoint­ed by the governors of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. The commission has developed an alliance of local elected officials, business leaders, and civic leaders across the Gulf states that are working together to boost passenger rail in the region.

And progress to restore Gulf Coast service continues, with Amtrak and the SRC announcing that they will conduct a tour to examine new ideas for intercity passenger rail. The pair will run an inspection train from New Orleans to Jacksonville, Fla., on Thursday, Feb. 18, and Friday, Feb. 19. The train, hosted by Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman, will carry a group of invitation-only elected officials, industry representatives -- including NARP President and CEO Jim Mathews -- community leaders and federal stakeholders. The goal of the trip is to examine the existing CSX railroad infrastructure and to better understand rail’s economic, cultural and mobility opportunities. It will provide an unparalleled perspective on reintroducing intercity passenger rail along the Gulf Coast. Complete details on the inspection trip are on the SRC website.

NARP knows that the demand for the Gulf Coast service is there. “We’ve long argued that long-distance trains are an integral part of our nation’s public transit network,” said Mathews. “By connecting smaller communities with larger cities, these trains offer Americans an alternative to car travel that they might not otherwise have.” NARP is encouraging members along the train stops to come and show their support for restoring rail service in the Gulf Coast.

The New York Times magazine did a long form story looking at the forces that caused the wreck of Amtrak Train #188 outside of Philadelphia May 12, 2015. The story includes the following details: a look at the train right before the wreck; a profile of Northeast Corridor engineer Brandon Bostian; the role Positive Train Control technology might have played if it had been online at the time of the accident; a profile of Georgetta Gregory, the head of the NTSB’s railroad division; the NTSB’s investigation of the accident; and the possible causes of the wreck.

NARP is inviting members in good standing to consider running for 10 open seats on the Council of Representatives, the association’s volunteer governing body, for two-year terms. The next election for seats is for the term starting March 1, 2016.

Any 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 run. The Council consists of 112 elected state representatives. The Council of Representatives represents the overall NARP membership in setting and approving the overall policy and direction for the association. For more information, click here. For an 'At-Large' Representative Candidate Information Statement form, go here.

In addition, nominations are now being sought from those members interested and qualified in being elected as an Association Officer (Chair; 4 Vice-Chairs; Treasurer & Secretary) and for the 8 Director positions. The Officers and Directors are elected by the Council of Representatives at the April meeting. For more information on these positions including duties, responsibilities and required qualifications, go here. For an Officer & Director Candidate Information Statement form, go here.

The deadline for all submissions is 11:59 p.m. (local time) on March 31, 2016. It must be postmarked no later than March 31, 2016.

Kern County Supervisor Mick Gleason showed his support for the state’s high-speed rail system in an op-ed in the Bakersfield Californian, noting that the project is creating jobs for his constituents. “The fact that the High Speed Rail is coming is an imminent, inescapable fact. As a Kern County Supervisor, I have never minced words on how I feel about the HSR, but try as I have, little can be done at the county level to put an end to it. The question then becomes, as a county, do we lay down across the tracks in an effort to stop the inevitable? Or, do we stand and fight, tooth and nail, to realize the significant benefits that could come to Kern County? The answer is obvious and it’s called the Heavy Maintenance Facility, or HMF.”

A valuable perk handed to Southern California from the bullet train project — a 2012 decision to build the first operating segment from Burbank north into the Central Valley — is being reconsidered by state officials, reports the Los Angeles Times. The state rail authority is studying an alternative to build the first segment in the Bay Area, running trains from San Jose to Bakersfield. If the plan does change, it would be a significant reversal that carries big financial, technical and political impacts, especially in Southern California.

The Federal Railroad Administration has announced that the public will get an extension of two weeks to comment on long-term plans for the Northeast rail corridor that propose major changes to the route's path through Philadelphia, reports The period for the draft environmental impact statement was extended from January 30 to February 15 due to heavy interest from the public. The proposals mark the beginnings of the first long range plan for the heavily traveled route in nearly 40 years. The plans can be seen at Anyone interested in making comment can email or write to NEC FUTURE, U.S. DOT Federal Railroad Administration, One Bowling Green Suite 429, New York, N.Y., 10004.

A few weeks after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a $3 billion plan to transform Penn Station and the James A. Farley Post Office, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has released a Request For Proposals (RFP) for the site, now called Empire Station Complex, reports It outlines the project sponsors (including the ESDC, Gov. Cuomo, the MTA and Amtrak) plans to create an "iconic new passenger rail complex and mixed-use destination in the heart of New York City."

And a story in Bloomberg Business notes how reception of the proposed design for Penn Station failed to charm people, but it may not be a bad thing. Gov. Cuomo’s plan is, to use an architectural term, “meh.” It’s no better than all right—maybe this one will get built. The latest Penn Station renderings are decidedly prosaic, but we don’t care about poetry when we’re stuck on an Acela arriving from Washington and train traffic is preventing us from making a meeting in Midtown.

Group rate hotel room reservations are now available for the Spring Council and Membership Meeting being held Sunday, April 10 through Wednesday, April 13 at the Sheraton Silver Spring Hotel. Click here to make your room reservations. Complete current information on the meeting can be found here.

Siemens has completed fabrication of the first stainless steel passenger coach shell for All Aboard Florida's (AAF) Brightline inter-city service at its plant in Sacramento, California, reports International Railway Journal. AAF placed an initial order with Siemens in 2014 for five 200km/h trains, each formed of four 25.9m-long coaches and two Charger diesel-electric locomotives. Each seat will seat 240 passengers.

People haven’t stepped onto a platform from a passenger train in Eau Claire for 52 years, but the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition is working to bring passenger rail service back to the region, and with it, a new economic engine for the Chippewa Valley, reports the Chippewa Valley Business Report. Business community legends Bill Leinenkugel and Owen Ayres helped form the coalition to show how reinstating passenger rail could advance economic development.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has revealed plans to improve the Harrisburg Transportation Center and surrounding areas in the state, reports Under the plan, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation would invest $15 million over the next two years to carry out major improvements and developments -- add energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, replace multiple roofs, install new windows and renovate underutilized space -- to the aging Harrisburg train station. The project will need another $50 million to $60 million for station and other transportation and land use improvements.

After an 18-month delay, Seattle’s First Hill Streetcar began making trips last weekend for a soft launch, providing free trips along the 2.5-mile route from the new Capitol Hill station to SoDo, reports There are 10 stops on the First Hill Streetcar line, and, once it's on its regular schedule, streetcars should show up in 10-12 minute intervals during normal business hours.

In the past two years, passengers on Texas Eagle trains have experienced delays or been forced to ride on buses due to construction of a third north-south mainline track in the Fort Worth, Texas, Tower 55 project, the higher speed rail construction between Chicago and St. Louis and significant weather events on the route.

So to celebrate the completion of track upgrades and anticipated reduction in track delays in 2016, the Texas Eagle Local Revenue Management team, in conjunction with the Texas Eagle Route Director and Amtrak Central Division Marketing, will begin a special promotion for passengers between January and March 2016.

Passengers will receive a free companion rail fare when they buy one regular (adult) fare. The ticket must be purchased at least one day in advance of travel between January 5 and March 15, 2016, for travel between January 6 and March 20, 2016.

These fares may be upgraded to a sleeper after paying for an accommodation charge. The promotion is valid for travel only on the Texas Eagle. It is not valid for local travel between Chicago and St. Louis, or for local travel between San Antonio and Los Angeles. Fares are subject to availability, and seating is limited. Please use discount code V344 when booking the fare.

Help get NARP on the air--again! In 2015, two 30-second public service radio spots were professionally produced by NARP and sent to more than 350 radio stations across the southern tier of the United States

The first spot calls for restoring rail passenger service between New Orlando and New Orleans; the other advocates increasing the Sunset Limited’s frequency to daily service. Each spot also refers the listeners to NARP’s web site and invites them to become a member. In addition to the two radio spots, each station received a cover letter from NARP President and CEO Jim Mathews explaining the importance of the two messages and thanking the stations for putting the spots on the air.

Members of Congress representing districts through which the Sunset route passes have also been sent letters informing them that their constituents will be hearing these messages. A link to the two spots was also included.

Ken Kramer, a NARP member from the San Diego area, located and recorded the professional voice talent and more than a dozen other NARP members volunteered to look up contact information for radio stations located along the Sunset Limited’s original route of Los Angeles-New Orleans-Orlando. Click here and here to listen to the PSAs.

And now, a brand-new series of three radio PSAs will launch a NARP campaign calling for making Amtrak’s Cardinal a daily train. The spots will be sent to more than 200 radio stations along most of the Cardinal’s route, but NARP needs your help to compile the necessary contact information.

NARP needs between 20 and 25 volunteers who will be asked to call between 10 and 12 radio stations during normal business hours in order to determine where and to whom our announcements should be sent. If you can help, please email Jim Loomis at JPLOOMIS@MAUI.NET for complete details. And thanks in advance for your help.

NARP thanks those members who have sent in industry-related news stories, op-eds, editorials or letters to the editor from your communities. We include them in our social media efforts, along with the weekly Hotline. Please send your news items to and we will continue share it with the membership. We also ask members to send events that we can put on the website, here. Finally, please follow NARP on Facebook and Twitter.