Happening Now

Hotline #696-B

November 26, 1991

During a conference meeting the evening of November 24, the language in the Senate surface transportation bill that included intercity passenger rail as an eligible program in the flexible account of the Highway Trust Fund was eliminated.Reportedly, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D.-N.J.) made a brave defense of intercity passenger rail, but could not convince the Chairman of the House Public Works Committee, Robert Roe (D.-N.J.). Normally, intercity passenger rail -- which is Amtrak -- falls under House Energy and Commerce. But Roe, like many on the House Public Works Committee, is jealous of the programs he controls and is afraid of mingling programs with Energy and Commerce. This was not a problem in the Senate, but in the House this turf battle is being won by Public Works, and the losers are supporters of balanced transportation.

Transit will still do well, at $31.5 billion, which is twice the current level. However, it lost $500 million to maglev. Maglev has done extraordinarily well in this bill, even though it would appear to suffer from the same jurisdictional problem as Amtrak. However, it is very unreasonable transportation policy to provide for a non-existent surface transportation mode, maglev, and yet cut out altogether a surface transportation mode that does exist and that is used by millions -- Amtrak.

The conferees have now completed their work. It is expected that the conference report will be filed at midnight tonight, that the full House will vote on the conference report at 2:00 am, and that the Senate will vote at 6:00 am. That means the bill could be sent to the President tomorrow and Congress can go home for Thanksgiving.

Nevertheless, all NARP members should call their House delegation immediately and protest this move by Chairman Roe. Call whether your Representative is a conferee or not. Tell them you are very upset that House Public Works did not include Amtrak in the surface transportation bill, as the Senate had tried to do. All NARP members should also write. We are getting reports that Congress is hearing our message of anger today, so keep up the pressure. The more the hear from us, the more they will realize that House Public Works made a mistake in letting a petty rivalry with House Energy and Commerce dictate unwise transportation policy.