Hotline #839 - August 19, 1994

The House passed H.R.4867, the new high-speed rail bill, on August 16, on a vote of 281-103. Three other legislative items will be postponed until after Labor Day:

  • First, the House-Senate conference on 1995 transportation appropriations funding, H.R.4556. If you have representation on either transportation appropriations subcommittee, write them to ask for the highest possible Amtrak numbers.
  • Second, a House floor vote on H.R.4111, Amtrak reauthorization. We still expect a Barton amendment on labor protection during this vote. Adoption of the Barton amendment would put most long-distance trains at serious risk.
  • And third, approval of S.2002, Amtrak reauthorization, in the Senate Commerce Committee.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved its bill establishing a National Highway System, as mandated by ISTEA, on August 12. A companion bill has already passed in the House, but that bill contains numerous demonstration projects, as is more usual for a House bill. The Senate bill has no demonstration projects, which often are criticized as "pork."

The strike against Soo Line is entering its sixth week. Originally, the United Transportation Union called the strike, with members of other unions honoring the picket lines. Now, members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes have been in the picket lines, too. That comes on the heels of Soo Line's August 2 announcement that it would bring in private contractors to do time-sensitive yard construction projects at Bensenville and Muscatine. It is not known when the strike will end, but Soo Line says more employees are crossing picket lines to return to work.

All Amtrak service to Oakland-16th Street Station ended August 5. The historic, but earthquake-damaged, building will be razed. All service is now consolidated at Emeryville. But construction is well underway at Oakland-Jack London Square, which should open early next year.

Coast Starlight service was interrupted on August 16 by fires in the San Luis Obispo area of California. There were speed restrictions near fires at other times on the Southern Pacific route.

The Executive Sleeper has been canceled permanently, due to a car shortage caused by recent accidents.

Dawn Soper, a staff member of Operation Lifesaver and former employee in the Amtrak Government Affairs Department, will become the new Amtrak Public Affairs officer in Los Angeles. Barbara Richardson, the head of public affairs at the Federal Railroad Administration, will be in charge of public affairs at Amtrak's new Northeast Corridor SBU in Philadelphia.

An excellent opinion column by Jessica Matthews on intercity passenger rail service is in the August 15 Washington Post. Besides supporting Amtrak, she takes House Transportation Appropriations Chairman Bob Carr (D.-Mich.) to task for saying "the vast majority of Americans travel without subsidy." She said he "of all people should know better."