July 26, 2001
The Amtrak Reform
Council (the Council) held its business meeting at the St.
Louis Hyatt Regency Hotel, One St. Louis Union Station,
St. Louis, MO, on July 26, 2001 on June 26, 2001. The meeting
started at 4:30 p.m. and adjourned at 5:45 p.m.
present were: Gil Carmichael, Chair, Nancy Rutledge Connery,
James Coston, Wendell Cox, and Lee Kling. Council members
who participated via conference were Charles Moneypenny
and Paul Weyrich.
chaired the meeting and Deirdre O'Sullivan served as secretary.
DIRECTOR'S REPORT AND DISCUSSION OF JULY 25TH HOUSE TRANSPORTATION
AND INFRASTRUCTURE, SUBCOMMITTEE ON RAILROADS HEARING ON
called the meeting to order, and asked Mr. Thomas Till,
Executive Director to give his report on the activities
of the staff.
Mr. Till discussed
the previous day's House Transportation and Infrastructure,
Subcommittee on Railroads Hearing where Chairman Carmichael
testified. He stated that the discussion that was very spirited,
and that members of the Committee participating in the hearing
were very interested in the state of the overall rail network,
as well as the debate on what direction intercity rail policy
should be heading in the future. The three Council members
who were present at the hearing, Chairman Carmichael, Nancy
Rutledge Connery, and James Coston, discussed their impressions
of the hearing. Mr. Coston stated that during the hearing,
the issue of the Bush Administration moving forward with
a reauthorization proposal for Amtrak that could be introduced
to Congress with the Administration's Budget in January
was addressed. Mr. Carmichael stated that he believed that
a national debate had begun regarding Amtrak's future with
both the Congress and Administration taking note. He then
asked Mr. Till to continue his report.
Mr. Till stated
that on July 12th DePaul University in Chicago held an informal
roundtable discussion between the Midwest States and the
Amtrak Reform Council to discuss some of the issues raised
in the Council's Second Annual Report. The discussion was
hosted by Professor Joe Schweiterman and was very helpful
for the states to fully understand what the Council is doing
and to receive feedback on the Council's activities.
Mr. Till also
discussed various projects the staff is currently working
on. These include: a working paper on funding mechanisms,
a working paper on the passenger rail network, and a working
paper on what other models are available for organizing
the structure of rail systems.
REPORT ON MEETING WITH THE ADMINISTRATION
stated that he had met recently with the U.S. Deputy Secretary
of Transportation, Michael Jackson, who stated that the
Administration would be including proposals for reauthorization
of Amtrak in the Administration's FY2003 Budget. Mr. Carmichael
also stated that the Administration would like the Council's
support for that move. He then offered a motion in support
of the Administration's plans with respect to commencing
the Amtrak reauthorization process. Mr. Kling seconded the
motion. Mr. Cox stated that he would abstain from voting.
Mr. Cox stated that he was concerned that the Council was
rushing too far ahead. Ms. Connery stated that she believed
that the Administration was inviting the Council to participate
in its process and that the Council should be a player in
turned to the issue of self-sufficiency. Mr. Cox asked Mr.
Kenneth Kolson, Legal Counsel for the Amtrak Reform Council,
about what the law states about a Council finding. Mr. Till
suggested that Mr. Kolson submit to the Council a legal
memorandum regarding what the law says about a finding,
and Mr. Carmichael agreed. Mr. Kling offered to withdraw
his motion. Mr. Coston, who was also in the meeting with
the Deputy Secretary, stated that it was his impression
that the Administration was still trying to get "up
to speed" on the Amtrak issue. He suggested that Mr.
Kolson prepare his legal memorandum regarding the Council's
obligations under the law and about the process regarding
reauthorization, and once the memo had been circulated,
that the Council should revisit this issue. Mr. Coston then
offered a motion with words that that effect. The motion
was seconded by Mr. Cox. The motion was passed unanimously.
ON RAILROAD BONDS
Mr. Carmichael then turned to the issue of the proposed
High-Speed Rail Investment Act (S.250). He stated that currently
there is legislation pending (2)
regarding high-speed rail bonds, and that the Council had
found fault with the legislation. He further stated that
he had described to Congress the previous day a better bond
that the staff has developed. Mr. Till stated that he would
like to reiterate the Council's position on the current
legislation regarding Amtrak's bonds. The Council's position
is that if the bonds were to be passed by Congress, the
Council would request that the Congress adopt a number of
amendments to the current legislation. In addition, the
Council staff has developed a proposal for an alternative
bond, which is still a staff working concept. Mr. Cox stated
that he opposed the bonds in any form because he believes
that the need for them cannot be demonstrated until the
Council finishes its work. Mr. Coston stated that his position
was that without some sort of funding mechanism, the prospect
for the Midwest high-speed rail (3)
is not very good. Mr. Carmichael then asked Mr. Kolson to
explain the differences between the House and Senate versions
of the bond legislation.
After Mr. Kolson described the differences between the
two bills, and Mr. Michael Mates, Senior Financial Analyst
for the Council, discussed the issues examined by the GAO
its review of the current legislation (S.250), Mr. Till
indicated that, without objection, the staff would move
forward to discuss the concept for alternate bonds with
the freight railroads. The Council had no objections.
The Council adjourned at approximately 5:45 p.m.
AND CENTRAL U.S. REGIONAL HEARING
day, the Council held a Hearing at which the Midwestern
and Central U.S. states were invited to discuss the issues
raised in the Council's Second Annual Report, which was
released in March 2001.
The Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997 states
that Amtrak has five years of funding authorization, therefore
Amtrak should be re-authorized by the authorizing committees
(House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Senate
Commerce Committee) in fiscal year 2002 in order for Amtrak
to be authorized to receive any federal funding in fiscal
(2) The High Speed Rail Investment Act
(S. 250 and H.R. 2329) is legislation currently pending
in the Congress. This legislation would give Amtrak authority
to issue $12 billion worth of bonds over the next 10 years
(with the states contributing a 20% match in funding) to
build high-speed rail corridors.
(3) Mr. Coston was referring to the
Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, which is seven-state plan
to build rail corridors in the Midwest.
(4) U.S. General Accounting Office.