Happening Now

Hotline #693

November 1, 1991

The Senate has selected its conferees for the surface transportation conference. They are, from the Environment and Public Works Committee, Moynihan, Burdick, Mitchell, Lautenberg, Reid, Chafee, Symms, Warner, Durenberger; from the Commerce Committee, Hollings, Exon, Bryan, Danforth, Gorton; from the Banking Committee, Riegle, Cranston, Sarbanes, Bond, D'Amato; from the Finance Committee, Bentsen, Baucus, Packwood, Dole; from the Government Affairs Committee, Glenn, Levin, Roth. House conferees may be selected by late this evening, but will likely include from the Public Works Committee, Roe, Mineta, Anderson, Hammerschmidt, Shuster; and from Energy and Commerce, Dingell.

It is particularly important to contact all Senators and ask them to instruct conferees to keep the Senate's pro-Amtrak, maximum non-highway flexibility language. Maine NARP members should contact Senator Mitchell (D.-Me.) to include a rail link in the Boston Central Artery. House members should be contacted to ask Chairman Dingell to support the Amtrak language.

President Bush signed the 1992 DOT Appropriations bill on October 28.

NARP will hold a press conference on November 4 announcing its filing of a complaint in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts against the Federal Highway Administration and the state over failing to include a rail link in the Central Artery project. NARP members are encouraged to attend, at 10:00 am, in the first-floor conference room of the AAAS Building at 1333 H St., N.W., in Washington.

There will also be a media event on the same topic at 8:30 am on November 4 at South Station in Boston.

The Federal Railroad Administration will hold public scoping meetings in preparation of its draft environmental impact statement on Amtrak's Boston electrification project. Other public hearings will be held after the draft EIS stage. This round of hearings will be held next week, each day at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm, at the following locations -- November 4, New London, Martin Center Auditorium, 120 Broad St.; November 5, Providence, Omni Biltmore, 11 Dorrance St.; November 6, Cambridge, Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, 55 Broadway. Written comments will be accepted for the next 30 days.

Members of the Transportation Communications International Union employed by Amtrak ratified a contract on October 7. It covers over 5,600 clerical workers, including reservations sales agents, ticket clerks, station services workers, and block operators. Part of the agreement will allow Amtrak to hire part-time ticket clerks, baggagemen, redcaps, commissary workers, and janitors. On the same day, Amtrak and the American Railway and Airline Supervisors Association, which has 215 members working for Amtrak as crew base and on-board supervisors, reached an interim agreement on a new contract.

There is a series of meetings in the Boston suburbs through November 14 about drawing up a new master transit planning document for eastern Massachusetts. They need to hear about the Central Artery.

The City of Honolulu has selected a contractor and a technology for its proposed rapid transit line. A consortium led by Morrison-Knudsen will build a 15.6-mile, $1.7-billion, fully automated, steel-wheel rapid transit line to be ready by 1997.

The New York City Transit Authority has approved a contract for renovating the Broadway/Jamaica elevated line in Brooklyn. That elevated line was built in 1885 and is still in use.

UMTA has signed a letter of intent to provide a 75% federal match for the cost of constructing the West Side light-rail line in Portland, Ore., due to open in 1997.

Last week, BART broke ground on two extensions to the rapid transit system, one to Pittsburg and Antioch, Cal., the other to Dublin and Pleasanton.

The Canaveral Port Authority recently voted to end its support of a proposed passenger and freight rail line between Orlando International Airport and Port Canaveral, Fla., a major cruise ship debarkation point. Many local residents opposed it because it would have claimed new right-of-way through environmentally sensitive areas and neighborhoods. However, a Norwegian cruise line company still wants a rail link from the airport to feed passengers to the port, perhaps a light-rail line along the Bee Line Expressway.

A meeting of Northeastern states on October 29 revealed that most of them are considering adopting California-style auto emission standards. New York may be furthest along in the hearing process and may adopt the standards as early as January or February.

The American Trucking Associations has made an unusual offer to the State of Massachusetts to buy the Massachusetts Turnpike. The Weld Administration reportedly has been considering privatizing the turnpike. One important complication is that the turnpike authority owns the land that Conrail uses to reach Boston. The ATA had been unhappy with rate increases for truckers, but with an annual income of $40 million, it was not clear how the ATA planned to pay for the turnpike. A turnpike authority official called the ATA offer "a hoot."

At a European Community transport conference this week, the transport ministers of several countries strongly supported diverting more truck traffic to the rails as a way to improve the environment. There were proposals to raise truck user fees to finance freight rail improvements.