Your weekly source of fresh takes on news affecting America's passengers. See also the RPA Blog.

Hotline #759

Congress is on recess until February 16, perhaps a good time to remind your legislators that you support a gas tax with a penny for Amtrak and that you want Amtrak included in any economic stimulus package. DOT Secretary Federico Pena told the nation's governors on February 2 that he has put Amtrak "on the table," but he won't know if Amtrak is in President Clinton's package until it is unveiled on February 17. The 1994 budget will be unveiled in March. Senator Lautenberg's transportation suppl

Hotline #758

Senate Transportation Appropriations Chairman Frank Lautenberg (D.-N.J.) this week unveiled his $6.7-billion supplemental transportation funding bill for 1993. He said it would create 300,000 jobs this year. He has $2.9 billion for highways, $1.9 billion for airports, $1.4 billion for transit, and a healthy $320 million for Amtrak capital and $220 million for the Northeast Corridor -- beyond existing fiscal 1993 appropriations. Lautenberg plans to introduce the bill soon. House Public Works Cha

Hotline #757

Two South Shore commuter trains collided the morning of January 18 at Gary, Ind., killing seven passengers and injuring 69. The trains collided at the end of a stretch of gantlet track that passes over a narrow 1908 bridge over Conrail's former Fort Wayne line. A gantlet track occurs where a double track narrows down by overlapping the tracks, rather than using switches and a single track. There are signals at both ends of the South Shore gantlet. Both engineers said they had green signals, but

Hotline #756

Massachusetts Gov. William Weld said yesterday that he is "in full support" of the Boston rail link. Referring to the FTA study now underway, he said, "If that rail link can be built within the confines of the Central Artery project, I think that would be the way to go, to get it done as quickly as possible." State DOT secretary James Kerasiotes told the Boston Herald that the state has earmarked $500 million for the project. MBTA general manager Jack Haley told the Boston Globe, "If there was a

Hotline #755

DOT Secretary-nominee Federico Pena yesterday appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee for his confirmation hearing. Pena and most Senators stressed the need for increasing airport capacity, except for John Kerry (D.-Mass.). He told Pena that high-speed rail was a priority, including the Boston electrification project. Kerry said he hoped that President-elect Clinton would be able to ride the first electric train to Boston before his next election. In response, Pena referred to Clinton's st

Hotline #754-A

Due to severe weather this week, the Empire Builder missed many trips between Spokane and St. Paul. United Airlines waived its advance purchase requirements for round-trip discount tickets between the Empire Builder's six largest cities, if you have an Empire Builder ticket or a receipt that you request when Amtrak refunds your ticket. Amtrak is bussing passengers from Whitefish to Spokane today and tomorrow. It now appears that trips originating in Chicago and the Northwest on January 3 will ru

Hotline #754

Alabama Governor Hunt will meet with members of his staff on January 8 to discuss funding of Amtrak's Gulf Breeze -- just two days before Amtrak's planned discontinuance of the train. Amtrak announced last week that it would end the Birmingham-Mobile service because the state had not paid any 403(b) money since its old contract with Amtrak ended in October. Amtrak said that it would bus people with previous Gulf Breeze reservations, January 10-31, but there remains hope that the state can act ne

Hotline #753

In announcing today that the next Secretary of Transportation will be former Denver Mayor Federico Pena, President-elect Clinton said, "As I said often during the campaign, we must rebuild America's infrastructure to rebuild our economy. The bridges, the airports, the roads, the railways that carry our commerce ... Meeting these needs will be a truly monumental task, one that calls for a Secretary of Transportation who knows how to build and knows how America's cities and suburbs and rural areas

Hotline #752

The leading candidate to be President-elect Clinton's DOT secretary now appears to be William Daley, brother of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. William Daley is described as a sharp banker and "shadow mayor," for the advisory role he has played for his brother. Amtrak President Graham Claytor spoke at the Clinton economic summit in Little Rock on December 15. He made the case for putting furloughed Beech Grove workers back to work and for the Amtrak penny. He said that TGV and bullet-train-style h

Hotline #751

Amtrak President Graham Claytor will attend President-elect Clinton's economic summit in Little Rock on December 14-15. Invitations to it were very hard to get. Association of American Railroads President Edwin Harper has written Clinton transition planners on proposals to stimulate the rail industry. The November 25 letter includes a plea for increased Amtrak capital spending and allowing states to spend federal transportation money on rail projects. Harper said the proposals in his letter wou