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

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

Hotline #730

The Senate returns on July 21 and likely will take up transportation appropriations soon. Any NARP member with a Senator on Appropriations should tell him or her that the House figures for Amtrak capital and the Northeast Corridor were unacceptable. The Food and Drug Administration "generally approved" on July 15 Amtrak's program for long-term compliance with their earlier consent agreement. This week, the FDA told NARP that "once we engaged Amtrak, we found their people to be cooperative and r

Hotline #729

The full House last night approved the 1993 DOT appropriations bill, H.R.5518, 306-74. There was a long debate, mainly over an amendment by Rep. David Obey (D.-Wis.). That was a variation of last March's bill to break down the "firewall" between domestic and other spending, as set up by the 1990 budget agreement. This time, the proposal was to take $2.6 billion in spending authority from foreign aid programs and transfer it to Public Works transportation programs, in order to stimulate the econ

Hotline #728

The full House Appropriations Committee approved this week the fiscal 1993 DOT appropriations bill. It has the subcommittee-passed Amtrak numbers, including just $74 million for capital -- 58% below this year's capital grant of $175 million, which was the House-passed number then, and 75% below Amtrak's 1993 request of $300 million. This is alarming. The number could become a baseline for future years, when Amtrak may face less sympathetic appropriations leaders (at least in the House). Also, $7

Hotline #727

The Machinists strike against CSX and the national rail lock-out are now over. Congress passed H.J.R.517 ending the strike at midnight and the President signed it very early this morning. The House vote was 248-140 and the Senate vote was 87-6. By a vote of 18-76, the Senate tabled an amendment by Sen. Paul Wellstone (D.-Minn.) to remove the arbitration sections of the bill. That simply would have pushed off the day of final reckoning to some other point in the summer. Amtrak expects to reactiv

Hotline #726-C

Late last night Congress sent a bill to the White House that President Bush will sign. It sets the railroads running again, provides for a 38-day cooling-off period, and then baseball-style arbitration that means that arbitrators mush choose one side's offer or the other rather than come down in the middle. This is to encourage parties to make reasonable offers. Yesterday afternoon, the House Energy and Commerce Transportation Subcommittee passed the bill on a 14-3 vote with "no" votes from Sik

Hotline #726-B

It seems unlikely that Amtrak will be struck tonight as a union spokesman had previously hinted. Amtrak's Night Owl will run tonight. Negotiations continue and the events on Capitol Hill make it politically unwise for labor to start a new strike tonight. Amtrak continues to run its Northeast Corridor and Chicago-Milwaukee services, the latter because Soo Line is one of the few railroads still operating. However, the Empire Builder is not running and, even though Central Vermont is running, the M