Happening Now

Hotline #694

November 8, 1991

The surface transportation conference has begun. The conference committee met briefly yesterday morning and are expected to begin work in earnest on November 12. Leaders are still saying work can be finished by Thanksgiving, but many insiders call that "dreaming" and say it may take until Christmas instead.

Here is a partial list of conferees. Pay special attention to those from the Commerce committees, because they have particular jurisdiction over whether the Senate's pro-Amtrak language will remain--

Senate conferees 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, Moynihan, Baucus, Packwood, Dole; from the Government Affairs Committee, Glenn, Levin, Roth.

House conferees are, from the Public Works Committee, Roe, Anderson, Mineta, Oberstar, Nowak, Rahall, Applegate, de Lugo, Savage, Borski, Kolter, Hammerschmidt, Shuster, Clinger, Petri, Packard, Boehlert, Bentley; from Energy and Commerce, Dingell, Lent; from Ways and Means, Rostenkowski, Gibbons, Pickle, Stark, Archer, Vander Jagt, Crane; plus several conferees from the Interior, Judiciary, Merchant Marine, and Science Committees with jurisdiction over parts of the bill with little effect on our interests.

All conferees should be told how important the Boston Central Artery rail link is, especially Senator Mitchell (D.-Me.). It is not too late to include the rail link in this bill. Also remind legislators that the House bill rewards states highest in vehicle-miles-traveled -- and thus the most oil use. Senate language rewards states with reduced VMT and oil use.

NARP held a press conference on November 4 announcing its suit 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. There was extensive media coverage, particularly in the Northeast. CBS Radio stations in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Detroit, as well as WTOP in Washington, will feature a 60-second piece on the rail link this weekend. Reacting to the announcement, state officials for the first time put a price tag on the rail link, of between $750 million and $1 billion. However, at the press conference, NARP Executive Director Ross Capon said that there is a clear choice between a $5.5 billion project that will be a dinosaur the day it opens, as is currently planned, or adding onto the project to make it more capable of moving people rather than metal boxes.

Massachusetts Governor Weld announced he is reconsidering plans for a second Boston airport. Among the reasons he cited were local opposition to the three alternate sites and a desire to see how many airline passengers Amtrak will win away when the Boston electrification project is complete.

Voters in Maine on November 5 approved a referendum to block plans to widen the Maine Turnpike, a result that has completely alarmed the Maine Motor Transport Association, a trucking group. The referendum mandates the formation of a new state transportation policy that would force the state to consider non-highway alternatives. Then, in a surprise move on November 6, Guilford, which owns the Boston & Maine Railroad, made an offer to the Maine DOT to restart passenger service between Boston and Portland, four times a day, for $35 million. Amtrak's report earlier in the year said $50 million would be needed. Amtrak and Guilford are on opposite sides of a Supreme Court case involving the Montrealer, which will be heard later this fall.

New York voters approved the charging of tolls on the state canal system, which currently is probably the most highly subsidized form of transportation that there is.

Amtrak and New York State DOT officials will meet on November 19 in Washington to discuss the future of state support for the Adirondack. Amtrak has sought $150,000 from the state beyond what the state, which is suffering one of the worst budget crises in the nation, says it has available. The state has asked Amtrak to replace the turboliners with Amfleet, which are cheaper to operate.

At ceremonies in Milwaukee on October 28 marking the increase in Amtrak Hiawatha service, Wisconsin Gov. and Amtrak board member Tommy Thompson announced he had made a formal request to Amtrak to study service from Chicago and Milwaukee to Appleton and Green Bay, and to Madison.

The Northeast Corridor was shut down for five hours early on November 5 at Elizabeth, N.J., when a propane truck became stuck under a bridge and began leaking. Forty Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains were delayed.

Congressional action on a national energy strategy is not likely to happen anymore this year, after the Senate defeated its bill on November 1. Rejected were Administration calls for more oil production, especially in environmentally sensitive areas. Any new bill next year would be improved if it relied more on conservation and less on production.

The Canadian government has announced the start of a two-year, $6 million study of high-speed rail in the Quebec-Windsor corridor. Transport 2000 said any high-speed project should include improving conventional rail now, in order to create a market base, and through-ticketing and schedule coordination between conventional and high-speed rail in the future.