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

Hotline #739

Wit staff work well underway, a formal conference on 1993 DOT appropriations is likely next week. Both the House and Senate bills had higher totals than the President's DOT request and the administration has identified this and six other appropriations bills as veto targets. House and Senate Democratic leaders reportedly decided on September 16 to scale these bills back -- presumably on an across-the-board basis -- rather than risk a veto. However, Congress Daily (September 11) reported that so

Hotline #738

Conferees have been named for the DOT appropriations bill. Basically, for both houses, they are the transportation subcommittee members, plus the chairman and ranking member of the full appropriations committees. Therefore, House conferees are Whitten, McDade, Lehman (Fla.), Carr, Durbin, Sabo, Price, Coleman (Tex.), Coughlin, Wolf, and DeLay. In the Senate, they are Byrd, Hatfield, Lautenberg, Harkin, Sasser, Mikulski, D'Amato, Kasten, and Domenici. No word yet on when they will meet, but it co

Hotline #737

Amtrak's FRA-related preventive maintenance cycle for food service cars has permanently reduced car availability. Therefore, the Cardinal and Desert Wind will lose their dining cars on September 21. Desert Wind sleeping-car passengers will get innovative catered box dinners, to be eaten in their rooms or in the lower level of the lounge, which will be dressed up as a diner at mealtime. Public smoking will be allowed only in the lower level of one coach. For now, coach passengers will have to liv

Hotline #736

Hurricane Andrew has had a serious effect on Amtrak service this week. Beginning the evening of August 23, all Silver Meteor and Silver Star service was confined to north of Tampa. The Miami Amtrak station had some water damage. The CSX line between Miami and West Palm Beach had little serious damage and is now open. Amtrak began partial service today and connecting buses have run from Orlando the past two days. The Tri-Rail commuter service moved all its rolling stock to Orlando before the sto

Hotline #735-A

Hurricane Andrew, or at least the anticipation of it, is having a serious effect on Amtrak service this week. Since the evening of August 23, all Silver Meteor and Silver Star service has been confined to north of Tampa. The Miami Amtrak station had some water damage but was open to employees today. The CSX line between Miami and West Palm Beach had some fallen trees, but they have already been cleared and the track has been inspected and judged sound. CSX is waiting for local utilities to resto

Hotline #735

A transportation appropriations conference is expected shortly after Congress returns September 9. Hill staff are expected to work on the two Amtrak reauthorization bills before then. An energy bill conference is expected in September; both bills contain the employer transit subsidy language that we like. A bill authorizing FRA safety programs has gone to the White House. All NARP members should be quizzing their Congressional candidates on rail, especially on H.R.4414, the Amtrak trust fund bil

Hotline #734

Train 92, Amtrak's southbound Colonial, derailed the evening of August 12 near Newport News, Va., close to the site of a grade-crossing accident and derailment involving the Colonial on April 29. About 80 people were injured this time. The FBI is investigating evidence of sabotage, saying that a switch had been tampered with. The switch is remotely controlled from CSX headquarters in Jacksonville, but can be operated manually. The lock securing the switch box was broken. The engineer said that t

Hotline #733

The Senate debated H.R.5518, the 1993 DOT appropriations bill, for two days this week and approved it yesterday, 74-22. All Amtrak items reported last week were retained. We expect a conference committee to meet in September, after the summer recess that begins August 14. Recess is the time for NARP members to ask their Members of Congress to work for the good Senate figures for Amtrak capital and the Northeast Corridor. Senators Lautenberg (N.J.), Lieberman (Conn.), and Dodd (Conn.) made floor

Hotline #732

The Senate Appropriations Committee reported out the 1993 DOT appropriations bill yesterday. Amtrak did much better than in the House bill. The Senate bill includes $331 million for Amtrak operations (the same as in the House); $165 million for capital (instead of $74 million); and $204 million for the Northeast Corridor (instead of zero). The Senate bill also provides $30 million in FTA money for Boston-Portland track improvements, as authorized by ISTEA. Report language encourages Amtrak and

Hotline #731

Balanced-transportation activist Sam Stokes died July 18 at Keene, N.H. He was 70 years old and put up a long struggle with Lou Gehrig's disease. Sam was a former vice president of NARP and long-time board member and executive committee member. He was the first and only recipient of the Amtrak Consumer Advocate Award in 1990. Sam was a tireless supporter of our causes and though he was frustrated by his debilitating disease, neither his work nor his determination was diminished. Sam's contributi