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Amtrak Reform Council

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.

Council Members 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.

Mr. Carmichael chaired the meeting and Deirdre O'Sullivan served as secretary.


Mr. Carmichael 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 2002 (1) 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.


Mr. Carmichael 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 the discussions.

The discussion 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.


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 (4) in 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.


The following 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.


(1) 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 year 2003.

(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.

Last updated January 02, 2001

The ARC is an independent federal commission established under the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-134).