Happening Now

Hotline #997

January 6, 2017

Southern Republicans favor Gulf Coast Train Line; Big Boost for Los Angeles Rail Transit; Ski Train Back in Action; NARP Updated On New Single-Level Amtrak Cars; Members Offer Input To FRA Southeastern Rail Study

Hotline #997: Southern Republicans favor Gulf Coast Train Line; Big Boost for Los Angeles Rail Transit; Ski Train Back in Action; NARP Updated On New Single-Level Amtrak Cars; Members Offer Input To FRA Southeastern Rail Study


First Hotline of the Year! 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 Bob Brady, [email protected], and we will continue to share it with the membership. We also ask members to send events that we can put on the website, here. And please follow NARP on Facebook and Twitter.


The confirmation hearing for President-Elect Trump’s appointment to head the Department of Transportation will be held next Wednesday, January 11, along with other positions. Elaine Chao, who ran the Department of Labor under George W. Bush, is expected to receive confirmation from the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee without a hitch. Chao has indicated she will focus on enforcing safety regulations, expediting the process for infrastructure projects and ensuring there is equal access to transportation in both rural and urban areas.

The U.S. Department of Transportation committed $1.6 billion to the extension of Los Angeles’ Purple Metro line. The L.A. metro received a $1.2 billion capital investment grant through the Federal Transit Administration and $307 million Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFA) loan. In addition, Metro will receive $169 million in federal funding from the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program.

The Winter Park Express, a joint operation between Amtrak, Union Pacific Railroad, and the Winter Park Resort, will be providing passenger rail service once again from Denver’s Union Station straight to the winter resort. If you're in the Denver area or coming from out of town and want to hit the slopes this weekend through March 26, take the The Winter Park Express to skip traffic and enjoy the ride. Check out Amtrak’s special deals here.

CALLING ALL MEMBERS: Apply for the position of Secretary of the NARP Board

Bill Hutchison has stepped down as Secretary of the NARP Board to help his significant other, Nan, with her health issues. We wish both of them well. Bill has served in various council and board positions in the past and his ideas and insight were appreciated. This now creates a vacancy for the Secretary of the Board, a very important, detail oriented position. It involves keeping the minutes of our monthly conference calls, organizing our agenda for the meetings and being able to attend two and possibly three face-to-face meetings a year. Board positions are voluntary and are not compensated. The unexpired term is through the April 2018 meeting.

To be eligible to apply you must: (1) Be a dues paying member in good standing of the Association; (2) Have been a Representative or Director for at least one complete term; (3) Be a registered voter

Please complete and submit this form if you are interested in seeking appointment as the Secretary of the NARP Board of Directors. DEADLINE TO APPLY IS JANUARY 20, 2017

With the 115th Congress now in session, southern-state Republicans are keeping up the pressure to restore the Amtrak’s Gulf Coast passenger train service. Both local and state Republican leaders have come out in favor of bringing back the train line connecting Orlando, Florida and New Orleans Louisiana, citing increased commerce and the creation of jobs as a main factor behind their support. The Gulf coast passenger train line will allow a constant flow of tourists, business, and ideas between Orlando and New Orleans with an increased chance to help spur an economic revival in some of the rural communities along the way.

The restoration effort could be aided by the infrastructure plan touted by officials in the Trump transition team. However, recent statements by members of Congress indicate infrastructure will not be part of the Trump Administration’s first 100 days, taking a back seat to passing a tax package and efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act healthcare program.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx named Martin Klepper as the Build America Bureau’s initial executive director. Klepper, a senior partner with Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP, will bring his expertise to the newly created DOT bureau. Under Klepper’s direction, the Build America Bureau will focus on easing access to federal credit and grant opportunities, while providing technical assistance to overall project development. The Bureau was created by merging five DOT programs which include:

  • the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA),

  • the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF),

  • the private activity bond (PAB) program,

  • the Outreach and Project Development functions of the BATIC,

  • and the Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) grant program.

NARP Offers First Student Fellowship

This spring, NARP will offer its first student Fellowship opportunity at the association’s annual Spring Council Meeting and Day on the Hill (April 25, 2017). The Fellowship will include a number of hands-on learning experiences in public policy and administration focused on transportation issues, including opportunities to meet with members of Congress and their staffs, as well representatives from the US Department of Transportation, Amtrak, and various rail trade associations and interest groups.

The Fellowship will be geared towards students whose academic or career interests are in transportation, railroads, political science, public policy, public administration, urban and regional planning, and business or nonprofit/association management. This is an all-expense paid opportunity that will afford students great networking opportunities and a chance to understand the workings of a non-profit. This fellowship is open to both undergraduate and graduate students who are U.S. citizens or legal residents and enrolled as a full-time student as a U.S. accredited college or university.

We are also looking for college and university faculty/staff who can help promote and advertise NARP’s Spring Fellowship Program. If you, or someone you know, can help, please contact Betsy at the email address below.

Applications for the fellowship are available at www.narprail.org/fellowship. Additional information can be requested by contacting Betsy Nelson, Director, Resource Development [email protected].

Amtrak has unveiled a new corporate restructuring plan, aimed at improving passenger service and making Amtrak more competitive. The senior management team will be cut in half into six direct reports which include, ‘Operations’, ‘Marketing and Business Development’, ‘Finance,’ ‘Law,’ ‘Administration,’ and ‘Planning, Technology, and Public Affairs.’ "This new structure aligns with our focus on improving the way we do business, modernizing and enhancing the customer experience, and investing in the future," Amtrak President and CEO Wick Moorman said. In addition, the new corporate structure will allow Amtrak to more easily comply with regulations established by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

The Texas Central Railroad will go to court in July to argue that they meet the proper state requirements as an official railway company. This will allow TCR to use eminent domain to survey and then acquire private land for the construction of a high speed rail line. The rail line between Houston and Dallas which can take anywhere from three to five hours would be cut to roughly 90 minutes. The privately funded project is expected to cost nearly $10 billion.

Apply For The Country’s BEST Internship! Summer By Rail, Part Two!

This summer, NARP is giving one college student an opportunity to travel across the country by rail to destinations of their choice, for the greatest internship ever. This is year two of “Summer by Rail,” and we are encouraging college students to submit an application to see how rail connects and powers America.

The intern can develop a plan that connects them by rail, bicycle, boat, or foot to any number of potential destinations of their choosing. That could mean they’ll visit Major League Baseball stadiums, national parks, foodie destinations, or state capitals that use passenger rail networks including the national Amtrak network.

During our first Summer by Rail, NARP sent Elena, a George Washington University student, on a month-long train trip across 15 states and 20 cities. She explored the connections between rail and bikes, ferries, and transit along the way. On her journey across America’s transportation network, she met with mayors and transportation officials, reporters, local cyclists and advocacy groups, and hundreds of fellow travelers.

Applications from college students for 2017, are due by January 31, 2017, and NARP will make a final selection in March.

Additional information on the internship is available at www.summerbyrail.com.

Senior Amtrak managers are reporting progress in getting new single-level equipment out into the system. Briefing NARP President Jim Mathews this week, Amtrak said that the first new diner -- being built by Spanish railcar manufacturer CAF’s Elmira, NY-based CAF USA unit -- has been out and running since just after Thanksgiving. Amtrak believes that car is "generally performing well." The next diner will hit the road in March, and CAF should begin delivering the remainder of the diners in the Spring, 25 in all. The new diners will run on the Silver Meteor, the Crescent and the Lake Shore Limited, although the diner restoration date on the Lake Shore is yet to be determined. The baggage/dorm cars and sleepers will begin to follow later in the year. In 2014 CAF and Amtrak renegotiated their original 2010 deal to include 70 baggage cars, 25 diners, 10 baggage-dormitory cars and 25 sleepers. Top Amtrak operational managers are especially hopeful about how the new bag/dorms might help the Cardinal service. Cardinal sleeping rooms are incredibly hard to come by right now, and adding baggage/dorm cars to the fleet should let Amtrak move the on-board service crews out of Cardinal revenue space and sell more rooms.

NARP members from six Southeastern states and the District of Columbia this week convened in a conference call led by NARP President and CEO Jim Mathews to offer insights and inputs to the Federal Railroad Administration’s Southeast Regional Rail Plan study. One of several regional studies planned for areas around the U.S., the Southeast study is a legally mandated, clean-sheet examination of how best to plan a long-term passenger rail vision for the entire region, looking at emerging/feeder service, regional corridors and high-performance core express corridors. NARP was asked by FRA to participate in the regional study process so that passengers had a voice as these long-term plans and objectives are set, and this week’s conference call was set up to consider an initial list of a dozen or so potential corridors identified during the study’s first two working sessions in October and December. The lively and thoughtful discussion centered on four main themes, including more explicit connections for Ashville, Wilmington and the North Carolina and South Carolina beaches and tourist destinations; taking into account Norfolk and Hampton Roads as the prospective DC - Richmond - Williamsburg corridor is studied; a regional corridor linking Jacksonville, Atlanta and Nashville and setting the stage for eventually heading north to Chicago, and in general examining the opportunities for more east-west corridors, especially those with an opportunity to connect northward (such as Petersburg - Lynchburg - Roanoke - Bristol - Knoxville - Nashville - Memphis). There was also a robust discussion of the need to build corridors and connectivity among “college towns” with their high concentration of frequent travelers. The next FRA working group session, which NARP will attend, is on March 1 and the study will continue through the early summer. NARP expects to organize more feedback sessions for members as the studies unfold nationwide.

Make plans NOW to attend NARP’s Spring 2017 Advocacy Summit & Meeting in Washington, DC - Sunday, April 23 through Wednesday, April 26, 2017. NARP’s 2017 ‘Action Day On The Hill’ & Congressional Reception will be held on Tuesday, April 25, 2017.

The Host Hotel is again the Sheraton Silver Spring (MD,) which is located just three blocks from the Metro Red Line Silver Spring station. Discounted group rate room reservations are now available. Don't delay...discounted rooms sold out quickly last year!

And Save These Dates!

NARP’s 50th Anniversary Celebration – Chicago, IL

  • Thursday, November 2 to Sunday, November 5, 2017

  • Four days packed with an exciting array of presentations, speakers, exhibits, tours, and events

  • Celebrating NARP’s accomplishments over the past 50 years and looking ahead to the future of passenger rail in the United States

  • Host Hotel: Millennium Knickerbocker

Amtrak has confirmed that it will be expanding in Virginia by adding service from Lynchburg to Roanoke. This train route, which will be an extension of service which currently ends in Lynchburg, is expected to start in the fall of 2017 and is contingent on the construction of a platform and other necessary facilities in Roanoke. Having the necessary funds, the Virginia Department of Rail has also stated they are exploring options for adding an additional train from Washington south to Charlottesville, Lynchburg, and potentially Roanoke.

Raleigh's Union Station, which broke ground in May 2015, is halfway complete and should be fully operational in early 2018. The city has high hopes for the station with aims to make it a city center focal point and will also serve as a hub for Go Triangle buses. The $90 million facility will offer a variety of restaurants and shopping centers, while serving as a venue for city events.

Post-Holiday Shopping Can Save You Money AND Support Our Work!

Your post-holiday shopping can help to support your Association. If you buy anything from online retailer Amazon.com, sign up for Amazon Smile so that a portion of your purchase price is donated to support NARP! The price you pay for your items does not change, but every purchase helps your Association as we do the work you want done for A Connected America! Visit http://www.narprail.org/get-involved/donate to learn more.

VSP Individual Vision Care now offers specially discounted individual and family insurance plans exclusively for NARP members that typically save hundreds of dollars on your exams, glasses and contacts. In addition, as a VSP member you -- or any family member you designate -- can also enjoy savings of up to $1,200 per hearing aid through VSP’s TruHearing plan. When you sign up for a VSP plan through our website, you not only help yourself and your family with significant savings and great benefits, but you help support NARP’s work as well! Click here to enroll today!

NARP signed an agreement with Travelers United, the only non-profit membership organization that acts as a watchdog for traveler rights, to offer free reciprocal membership to all NARP members! To check out benefits and get the low-down on your passenger rights, visit https://TravelersUnited.org/welcome-narp/

Amtrak Vacations, a premier tour operator offering first-rate travel packages combining great destinations and train travel, is now offering all NARP members a 10% discount on the rail travel portion of any package booked, along with a 5% discount on parent company Yankee Leisure Group’s Unique Rail Journeys packages across Europe! Better yet, go watch a recorded webinar co-hosted by Amtrak Vacations and NARP to learn about a special offer worth up to an additional $400 off certain rail-travel packages! Click here to watch the recorded webinar, or copy and paste this URL into your web browser: https://youtu.be/uiETYMKziWA, and to learn more about Amtrak Vacations please visit http://www.amtrakvacations.com.

Welcome to 2017, from the NARP Staff!