Hotline #1,036: Mathews - Don’t Cut Trains, Invest in Them; Amtrak is “Ready to Build”; Lawmakers Meet on Infrastructure Plan; Brightline Receives Environmental Permit
October 6, 2017
We Need Your ‘Nose For News’! When you see rail-related news stories, op-eds, editorials, or letters to the editor in your communities, send them along to us! We include them in our social media efforts, along with the weekly Hotline. Send your news items to Bob Brady, email@example.com, and we will continue to share it with the membership. Are you holding a rally, a community meeting, or another kind of rail-advocacy event? We can help spread the word if you send them to us. We can put on the website here. And please follow NARP on Facebook and Twitter.
RailNation Chicago Update: Amtrak To Unveil New Fall Dining-Car Dish At RailNation!
Attendees at our 50th Anniversary Celebration in Chicago will get to be among the first to try the latest new entree for Amtrak dining-car service! It’s a surprise, so we won’t give it away here, but Amtrak Executive Chef Dan Malzhan will prepare it fresh before your eyes in a demo you won’t want to miss!
To watch Amtrak’s Top Chefs demo, as well as hear from other great presenters, please Register For RailNation TODAY. You can also read more about RailNation below.
NARP President and CEO Jim Mathews wrote an Op-Ed in The Hill, a political publication read by many elected officials in Congress, on how cutting train service nationwide would disportionately affect low income households in rural communities. The Op-Ed supports NARP’s recently released report, “Dismantling a National Transportation Network,” a sharp rebuke to recent budget proposals from the White House and members of Congress that would have negatively affected the local economies for 45 percent of American taxpayers.
Within the report and the Op-Ed, NARP clarifies the misconceptions that many in federal offices believe - that Amtrak is a major recipient of subsidies - more so than the highway and aviation networks. This just isn’t true. In truth, between 2008 and 2016, Congress spent $143 billion subsidizing highways. That’s more than three times what Amtrak has received since it was created in 1971.
The Op-Ed, “Don’t Cut Trains, Invest in Them: Killing Passenger Rail Would Hurt ‘Flyover Country’” is available online.
Registration is filling fast for NARP’s 2017 RAIL NATION CHICAGO Passenger Advocacy EXPO And 50th Anniversary Celebration this November in Chicago, IL
Thursday, November 2 to Sunday, November 5, 2017
Don’t Miss Out...Four days packed with an exciting array of presentations, speakers, panels, exhibits, tours, excursions and events highlighting the future of passenger rail in the United States and celebrating NARP’s 50th Anniversary. You’ll hear DIRECTLY from leaders shaping the future of passenger rail, here in the U.S. and worldwide!
An Amtrak Culinary Demonstration, a passenger-rail jobs fair and fun exhibits, too!
Just Announced Exclusively for RailNation Attendees...Three Chicago to Milwaukee Rounds-Trips using Milwaukee Road Super Dome #53 on Saturday, November 4th. These excursions are in addition to sevral other great tours and trips being offered to registered attendees! Check out the full details of the Saturday’s and Sunday’s events NOW! We expect the Dome Car trips to sell out fast. Register and buy your trip tickets TODAY!
Don’t miss the Fabulous 50th Anniversary Celebration Dinner on Saturday Evening, November 4
The Celebration Dinner program will include:
A Prominent Keynote Speaker
A Salute To NARP Founder Tony Haswell
A Look Back At The Past 50 Years And To Those Who Have Given Their Blood, Sweat & Tears To NARP's Cause
The Inaugural Presentation Of The Ross Capon Passenger Citizenship Award (Given To Individuals That Demonstrate Exceptional Leadership, Initiative Or Passion In Citizen Advocacy)
Celebration Dinner Attendees Will Receive A Special Commemorative Memento!
The COMPLETE detailed program agenda is now available on the event page!
By popular demand, a reduced registration rate for students and young advocates (30 and under) has now been added.
Host Hotel: Millennium Knickerbocker - E. Walton Place at N. Michigan Ave. Make Your Hotel Reservations HERE! Last chance...Discounted hotel reservations must be made by midnight Friday, October 6th!
Visit the Event Webpage for complete information, the up-to-date agenda & details Or call the NARP Office 202-408-8362 for assistance.
Confirmed And Invited Speakers:
Richard Anderson - Co-President/CEO - Amtrak - Confirmed for Thursday, Nov. 2
Étienne Tricaud - CEO & Co-Founder - AREP - Keynote Address Thursday AM, Nov. 2
Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts
Hon. John Robert Smith - Board Chair - Transportation for America
Joseph Szabo - Executive Director - Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning
Daniel Elliott III - Vice-Chair - Surface Transportation Board
Jim Wrinn - Editor - Trains Magazine
Ian Jefferies - Senior Vice-President Government Affairs - Association of American Railroads
Tim Keith - President - Texas Central Partners
Henry Posner III - Chairman - Railroad Development Corporation
Bob Johnston - Passenger Rail Columnist - Trains Magazine
Chef Daniel Malzhan - Corporate Executive Chef - Amtrak
Karen Hedlund - Director Public-Private Partnerships - WSP - Parsons Brinckerhoff
Richard Harnish - Executive Director - Mid-West High Speed Rail Association
Prof. Anthony Perl - Simon Fraser University
Travel by Train to NARP’s 2017 Passenger Rail EXPO And 50th Anniversary Celebration
Don’t miss out! There’s still time to book your seat on the PV Dearing following our 50th Anniversary Celebration and November Passenger Rail EXPO in Chicago. Space is available from Huntington, West Virginia to Chicago on the Cardinal and from Chicago to Washington after the meeting on the Capitol Ltd. The Cardinal will arrive in Chicago on November 2nd. If you have any questions about pricing and accommodations please reach out to Betsy Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to the expected strong weather conditions from Tropical Storm Nate, New Orleans service for Amtrak on Sunset Limited, Crescent and City of New Orleans trains will be revised temporarily over the weekend. Details for each train’s service include:
- Sunset Limited (Trains 1 & 2) will terminate and originate in San Antonio instead of New Orleans, with no alternate transportation available between San Antonio and New Orleans. Trains 1 & 2 normally operate three-days-weekly between Los Angeles and New Orleans.
- Crescent (Trains 19 & 20) will terminate and originate in Birmingham instead of New Orleans, with no alternate transportation available between Birmingham and New Orleans, effective tomorrow (Saturday) southbound and in both directions on Sunday. Trains 19 & 20 normally operate daily between New York City and New Orleans.
- City of New Orleans (Trains 58 & 59) will terminate and originate in Jackson, Miss., instead of New Orleans, with no alternate transportation available between Jackson and New Orleans, effective tomorrow (Saturday) southbound and in both directions on Sunday. Trains 58 & 59 normally operate daily between Chicago and New Orleans.
Amtrak is raising awareness and encouraging increased investment from the federal government for the national rail network with the agency’s new “Ready to Build” campaign. With an emphasis placed on the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak released five videos that highlight projects that need to be advanced in order to meet the growing demand from passengers. Amtrak said in a press release that current demand for its services, “continues to outpace investment, resulting in a backlog of more than $38 billion of deferred capital investments that risks future service expansion and reliability.”
“The NEC is a central artery for the greater Northeast, which generates 20 percent of U.S. gross domestic product and is one of the country’s principal economic engines,” said Amtrak co-CEO Wick Moorman. “These major projects are critical to keeping people, the economy and the nation moving forward.”
Amtrak, along with state and federal partners, has begun the planning and regulatory review processes for the five major projects highlighted in its campaign. Amtrak said that’s its major projects include:
- Hudson Tunnel Project (New York – New Jersey): Construction of a new Hudson River rail tunnel serving New York Penn Station to provide greater operational flexibility and infrastructure resiliency.
- Portal North Bridge Project (New Jersey): Replacement of the century-old Portal Bridge with a new, high-level, fixed-span bridge will result in faster trip times and greater reliability, and will eliminate the need to open for maritime traffic.
- Major Stations Development (Northeast and Chicago): Leveraging public-private partnerships and underutilized land and air rights to transform half-century-old facilities into vibrant commercial transportation hubs.
- Susquehanna River Bridge Project (Maryland): Replacement of existing two-track bridge with two, new high-level bridges with a total of four tracks, allowing for increased speeds and eliminating the need to open for maritime traffic.
- Baltimore & Potomac (B&P) Tunnel Project (Maryland): Replacement of the Civil War-era, 30 mph bottleneck with a four-tube tunnel that allows for more reliable and more frequent service.
Members of the Trump administration and five members of the House met this week to discuss development of an infrastructure plan. The meeting was set to help provide guidance on the plan, which is behind schedule and could continue to be delayed due to a focus on tax-reform legislation. Due to the delays, lawmakers and stakeholders have been pressing the administration to move forward with a bipartisan plan that will improve the country’s roads, railways, ports and more. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), who attended the White House’s Thursday meeting, said she presented the administration with bipartisan ideas aimed at improving rural infrastructure.
"I urged the White House to put partisan politics aside and come forward with a responsible and robust infrastructure plan that will create a better future for rural Americans,” Bustos said. “I was pleased to have this opportunity and hope that it is the start of a productive conversation about how to make real, positive change in the lives of working families."
Despite the meeting, many lawmakers believe the package may not move forward as planned due to President Trump questioning if public-private partnerships are the most appropriate means to complete projects. Also, Trump has raised new concerns on whether Republicans will be on board with the rebuilding effort. The administration said that the plan would spend $200 billion to leverage $1 trillion worth of overall investment. It would do so by offering financial incentives to the private sector and state and local governments, which would then pick up the rest of the tab.
“I don’t think it’s possible to do a bill that doesn’t have a mixture. It’s an all-of-the-above solution … [public-private partnerships] are a piece of a puzzle. States are contributing, they’re partnering,” Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said. “All of us working together is I think how we get to the $1 trillion number.”
The White House outlined a infrastructure vision in Trump’s budget request earlier this year, and said more details would be released in the third quarter or early fall.
The new “Rally For Trains” economic report is out and contains an array of stats and data that can bolster advocacy efforts for passenger rail in America. The report details how cutting funding for trains will hurt America, especially in rural areas with lower household incomes. It shows why expanding funding for passenger rail will be a boon for our national and local economy. Feel free to pick out data and share it on social media with the #rallyfortrains hashtag.
Sharing photos at your station or in your town on Facebook or Instagram is another easy and free way to keep the pressure on Congress to ask for funding for rail passengers! At the end of your post, insert #Rally4Trains, just as you see it spelled here. That ensures that everyone’s messages and pictures are gathered in one place for everyone to see online!
As always, you can call Congress at: 202-224-2131, and tell them you support funding rail in America. That number will allow you to connect with the people you elected to represent you in Washington. Or, email them by visiting the www.townswithouttrains.com website, and clicking the “Contact Congress” button.
[The Towns Without Trains and #Rally4Trains project has been made possible through generous bequests from the estates of George McCallum, Edmund Fritz, and Lewis Hoppe, as well as financial contributions from NARP members all across America who make our work possible.]
Amazon, the online shopping center, which is currently headquartered in Seattle, is in search of a new location to build a secondary headquarters in the U.S. Amazon has been soliciting proposals from cities across the country for its new $5 billion project, which would include 50,000 jobs. Several cities are eager to attract Amazon, including those with passenger rail or passenger rail projects in development.
In Philadelphia, Amtrak and city officials are so confident that the city stands a strong chance of getting the new Amazon location, that Amtrak postponed its search for a developer to renovate the 30th Street Station. Amtrak has been looking to contract a master developer for the first phases of a decades-long, $6.5 billion area vision known as the 30th Street Station District Plan. City officials are planning to propose in its pitch that Amazon locate its new HQ in an adjacent location to the station. The postponement, which will last until Amazon makes a final decision on the project, shows that Amtrak is taking Philadelphia’s odds seriously of snagging Amazon’s new campus, said Dean D. Bellas, president of Alexandria, Va.-based real-estate and planning consultancy Urban Analytics.
“This could potentially be an economic boom for Amtrak, so it would be worth their while to step back for a moment,” said Ballas, author of a recent report on transit-linked development projects for the Urban Land Institute.
In Dallas, Texas Central Partners (developers of the high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston), is working with Matthews Southwest to also develop a proposal for Amazon’s new location. The companies hope that if Amazon locates its second headquarters in Dallas, the move will help move plans for the rail line forward, quickly. Texas Central President Tim Keith believes that having HSR to the proposal highlights that the 50,000 Amazon employees will have easy access to the urban, suburban and rural parts of the state.
"This would redefine the definition of MSA and all of Texas would have an opportunity to benefit from Amazon," Keith said. "Amazon would also benefit from the bullet train and helps them answer the mobility question in their RFP."
Matthews Southwest, a development firm led by Jack Matthews, has assembled upwards of 150 acres of developable land surrounding the proposed Dallas-based high-speed rail station. The land has existing real estate already on the ground, but it can be easily converted by the 2019 deadline set by Amazon.
Amazon announced its request for proposals for HQ2 on September 7. Proposals are due to Amazon by Oct. 19 and the company will announce a winner next year. Dozens of cities and regions in the U.S. are bidding on the RFP, along with some cities in Canada.
Don’t miss out on the ceremonial celebration of the new Amtrak station in Marks, MS with the Quitman County Mules Freedom and Blues Fest, this weekend, October 6 -7! Come join blues icon Willie Clayton, and many more as the as the town of Marks celebrates the highly anticipated Amtrak Station. The Marks train station will bring greater accessibility to those living throughout the Mississippi Delta and we can’t wait to celebrate such a success. To learn more about the ceremony and festival visit www.mules-bluesfest.org. See you there!
At the end of last week, All Aboard Florida received a victory in the courts when Administrative Law Judge Bram Canter denied a challenge that would have blocked permits for the Brightline rail line. Martin and St. Lucie counties and St. Lucie Village sought to block an environmental resource permit, and Judge Canter’s decision now allows Brightline to receive a permit from the South Florida Water Management District. The permit would allow Brightline to make water management-related modifications to 23 crossings in Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties and would allow for construction and operation of a stormwater-management system. The decision comes two years after Brightline officials first requested the permit.
As Brightline readies to begin service later this year, the company announced a new partnership with the NBA team, Miami Heat. The new partnership was announced as BrightRed, Brightline’s fifth and final train set arrived in West Palm Beach Thursday. The partnership with the Heat allows Brightline to offer special packages and promotions to fans attending the basketball games. Heat fans will be able to board Brightline trains in West Palm Beach or Fort Lauderdale, and take them to the company’s southernmost station in downtown Miami, which is walking distance to the American Airlines Arena where the Heat play.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHRSA) has invested $2.55 billion worth of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds, with more than $2 billion going towards construction of the Central Valley segment of the line. This includes funding more than a dozen active construction sites that are underway over 119 miles in the Central Valley. The agency was required to invest the funds by a September 30 deadline, mandated by the ARRA, which was enacted in 2009 to address the Great Recession by providing funds to build new infrastructure, spur technological development and create new employment opportunities.
Dan Richard, CHSRA's chairman said in a press release from the agency, “Thanks to these federal funds, thousands of people are working in good-paying jobs to build a new transportation system that will improve quality-of-life for generations to come.”
For additional details on how the agency spent its funding, CHRSA released a new report that is available online.
Upcoming Regional NARP and State Passengers Association Member Meetings & Events
Wednesday, November 8 - Vermont Rail Action Network Annual Dinner and Awards - Rutland, VT - Full details to be announced!
Please contact Bruce Becker to have a local, state or regional meeting added to the NARP calendar of upcoming events!
The public commenting period has opened up for the Washington-Richmond High Speed Rail Study which was released today. Thankfully, the Virginians for High Speed Rail have compiled a fact sheet highlighting the many benefits associated with creating a Washington to Richmond high speed rail line, which includes, among many others,:
A 28 percent reduction of travel time between DC and Richmond,
3+ million car trips taken off the roads annually,
generating $7.6 billion in public benefit,
and producing $408 million in tourism spending annually.
If those reasons weren’t enough to support the high speed rail project, recently, a stretch of I-95 that runs through northern Virginia was named the “worst traffic” hotspot in the country. It’s a no brainer to us, would you rather waste your time sitting in traffic, or leisurely travel to either D.C. or Richmond in a timely manner. To learn more about the project and how you can make high speed rail between Washington and Richmond a reality, visit www.VHSR.com/DC2RVA.
Come December, Amtrak Cascades is making it faster and easier for passengers to travel between Seattle and Portland. Amtrak announced it will add two more daily roundtrips between Seattle and Portland, and it will also re-route part of the trip in order to cut travel time by 10 minutes. The line, which is jointly operated by Amtrak and the Washington and Oregon departments of Transportation, will add extra morning and evening trains starting December 18. This will bring the total number of trains traveling each day between stations to 12.
To shave 10 minutes off the 3.5-hour trip, Amtrak will reroute trains to an inland track between Tacoma and Olympia, and will upgrade tracks and signal systems. The new route will separate passenger trains from freight trains and avoid a choke point near Point Defiance in Tacoma.
Tickets for the added service are already on sale at AmtrakCascades.com.
Stories From Passengers: Steve Meysing
The administration proposes eliminating long-distance trains in favor of regional trains? Well, my regional train is a long-distance train. That's life in western Nebraska, equidistant from Omaha and Denver, our regional centers. Thanks to the hub-and-spoke airline system, flying to Omaha requires first flying to Denver, adding substantial time and cost. But our Essential Air Service provider just announced Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will leave us without air service in as little as 30 days. Amtrak's California Zephyr enables me to save time and money by traveling directly (and overnight) to and from our head office in Omaha, or airport connections in Denver thanks to their excellent public transport system.
While living in northwest Nebraska, a driving trip to our main office in Omaha for a daytime meeting meant two days on the road and two nights in a motel for a day-long meeting. But driving four hours to Fort Morgan, CO, meant that I could me sleep on the California Zephyr in both directions and reduce a three-day trip to a day-and-a-half trip, allowing me to preserve productivity for my employer.
I work for a non-profit that serves one-quarter of all Nebraskans every year. We strive to do more with less, including time and money. Amtrak's California Zephyr makes it possible for our organization to do its part in helping people get the services they need. My region is bigger than most people's, but our one and only train is a critical part of it.
A big thanks goes to Steve for sharing his story! NARP is looking for more stories like this about the National Network to help us fight the White House's proposed budget for FY 2018. Facts and figures alone can’t communicate how vital these trains are to the communities that depend on them. NARP needs to hear from YOU about your town, and your train. We’ve heard from hundreds of you so far and we’re making sure they get seen in Washington...but we still need more!
If you haven’t yet taken part in this effort, please take just a minute or two to write out a few paragraphs telling us why passenger rail is important to you, and email it to email@example.com.
We’re looking for stories from individual passengers about how train service benefits their lives, and how their lives would be hurt by the loss of train service. We’re especially interested in stories that describe how trains:
- Connect you to vital services, such as medical care or vital government services.
- Provide access to educational opportunities, whether it’s traveling across the state to university or commuting to an internship.
- Allow you to maintain mobility while managing a disability or medical condition.
- Help you and your business, and its role in helping you connect with customers and clients.
The New Rochester, NY Amtrak Station opened for service today. Located at the same location as the previous stations in downtown Rochester, the new facility is fully ADA-compliant and features a new high-level platform serving two dedicated boarding tracks. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter was joined by Governor Andrew Cuomo in cutting the ribbon this afternoon, as both the west and east Maple Leaf’s met at the new station. Congresswoman Slaughter has championed the multi-year effort that lead to the new station being constructed and she was instrumental in securing over $18 million in federal funding. The new station will greatly increase passenger service and should help reduce delays.
In order to complete three projects faster, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is looking into public-private partnerships. The three projects are the Sepulveda Transit Corridor, where the agency is considering building light-rail, subway or bus rapid transit; the West Santa Ana Branch light-rail project; and an extension of the ExpressLanes network. Metro is interested in launching competitive bids on the projects, each of which are funded by the voter-approved Measure M sales tax.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who serves as Metro's chair, said, “The voters of Los Angeles County have given us a mandate to build new public transportation projects as quickly as possible — now, it's our turn to deliver on that promise. By creating innovative partnerships with the private sector, we can accelerate Measure M projects, and ease traffic across our region even more quickly than we expected.”
The next step for the agency is to issue requests for proposals that give firms a chance to recommend ways to accelerate the projects. Metro anticipates additional opportunities to speed other Measure M projects through partnerships with the private sector.
Nominations Now Open For The 2018 Election Of Council Of Representative Members
NARP is inviting all members in good standing to consider running for seats on the Council of Representatives, the Association’s volunteer governing body. The next election for seats on Council will occur in January 2018, for a two-year term starting March 1, 2018. Any NARP member, who has paid dues for at least one year, is at least 18-years of age and is a U.S. resident is eligible to run.
The Council consists of 112 elected state representatives. The number of representatives per state is determined by an equally weighted ratio of the NARP members in a given state and the state’s number of U.S. Representatives. Every state has at last one Council Representative. The certified number of Council seats to be elected, per state, in January 2018 can be viewed here.
The Council of Representatives represents the overall NARP membership in setting and approving the overall policy and direction for the Association. The Council elects the Officers and Board of Directors of the Association, in addition to up to 10 ‘At-Large’ members of the Council. Serving on the Council is a great opportunity to collaborate with others who have a common interest in actively improving passenger rail service across the country. Council members are expected to encourage activities at the grassroots level to advance the Association’s goals and represent local needs, issues and activities at the national level.
The Council meets in person twice per year; in the spring in Washington, D.C., and in the fall at varied locations across the country. Council members are responsible for their own travel and meeting expenses to attend these gatherings and they may be able to apply these expenses on their federal tax returns.
Members interested in running for a seat on the Council must complete and submit a Candidate Information Statement to the Candidate Certification Committee for review and qualification by 11:59 p.m. local time on December 1, 2017. The Candidate Information Statement is also available by requesting a printed copy from the NARP office. Complete information on serving on the Council of Representatives with detailed specifications on the election procedures can be found on the NARP website under ‘Join the Council’
NARP is only as strong as the leaders who step up and share their time and talents in working towards our collective goals. Please consider becoming one of these leaders and help make a difference in the future.