Transportation Bill Compromise Maintains US Support for the Downeaster Thanks to Effort of Senator Snowe

Train riders from Portland to Boston can exhale a sigh of relief as the 27-month compromise transportation bill has gone to the president for his signature. Successful last minute efforts by Senator Olympia Snowe sealed the deal keeping federal funds flowing to the Downeaster. Here is a portion of Sen. Snowe's press release:

Provision to Preserve Downeaster Funding
Included in Final Highway Bill
Legislation also includes Snowe measure regarding veterans’ commercial drivers licenses


snoweWASHINGTON, D.C. –
A modified version of a measure introduced by U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) to preserve funding for operation of the Downeaster rail service today passed the Senate as part of the final compromise Highway Bill package.

Compromise Transportation Bill Leaves NARP Disappointed

narplogoThe House & Senate agreed Wednesday night on a compromise 27-month extension of the Surface Transportation Bill. NARP's analysis concluded: "...for train passengers, this unveiling will undoubtedly leave them with a resounding sense of disappointment."

The full report is available on the NARP site.

NNEPRA Board Meeting - June, 2012

The NNEPRA Board met this week in Portland where Executive Director Patricia Quinn reported continued growth in Downeaster ridership and revenue for May and the fiscal year to date:

destatsmay12

NARP Amtrak Alert!

 House to vote on anti-passenger rail amendments today!

June 27, 201

Last chance to speak up for trains!

Votes on amendments to the transportation/housing appropriations bill could come as early as today at 4:00 PM Eastern. In an unusual move, the House is operating under an “open rule,” which makes it very hard to know for sure what amendments will be offered.  However, NARP has identified two distinct possibilities passengers should should be concerned about:

Elimination of $500 million from Amtrak capital—As reported in yesterday's email, it appears there will be an amendment that would eliminate a $500 million bridge and tunnel grant within the Amtrak capital program.  That money is vital—not only for capital, but for the potential to flex $80 million of it over to Amtrak operations.

Rep. Jeff Flake Targets Amtrak's Food Service—NARP just learned this morning about a “no-money-for-food-service” amendment from Representative Flake (R-AZ).

This issue was already address by Amtrak’s Bill Crosbie in his June 9, 2005, prepared testimony before the Railroads Subcommittee: “Amtrak’s food and beverage service is a fundamental part of the service that we offer on the majority of the trains that we operate on a daily basis. Its primary purpose is to enhance ticket sales and ridership, not serve as a profit center.”  Translation: it's hard to make money on food when your clientele is limited to people on a single train, but no food service would mean huge loss in ridership.

With so little time left, it's important that they hear from America's passengers.  So call your Representative now, and tell them to "vote against amendments that would reduce Amtrak funding or limit its ability to provide food service" (if a the staff person is not available to speak to you, please leave a concise message, since the vote likely will come before your call is returned).

Senate and House negotiators close to deal on surface transportation bill

It appears that a deal has been reached between House and Senate conferees on a multi-year transportation reauthorization.  While details are still fuzzy, if the rail provisions are anything like what was contained in the Senate version, this is good news for trains.  An extended authorization will clear the way for investment in transportation infrastructure, putting Americans back to work in time for the summer construction season.

NARP will keep you updated as events unfold.


 

NARP Recounts TrainRiders/NE's 12 Year Marathon to Bring Amtrak Downeaster to Maine

narpwayneThe June edition of the NARP Newsletter details the extraordinary 12-year-effort of Wayne Davis and his TrainRiders organization to bring Amtrak passenger service to Maine. NARP states that chairman and founder Wayne Davis "set a gold standard for effective citizen action."

The article details how untiring work in communities along the line and in Augusta resulted in a nickname for the Downeaster that continues to be proudly used today:  "America's Favorite Train."

The full article can be viewed here.

FRA Highlights Downeaster's Expanding Economic Impact

szaboFederal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo recently analyzed the economic benefits of the Downeaster's continued growth - an estimated $7.2 billion in economic activity through 2030.

Citing an independent analysis, Mr. Szabo said the new construction along the corridor in Maine, particuarly from Portland to Freeport and Brunswick, can create 18,000 new jobs. More on this upbeat assessment at the NARP website.