The following letter from the Arkansas Amtrak Coalition was recently circulated among members of the Arkansas congressional delegation, DOT Secretary Rodney Slater, and various Amtrak officials, to bolster support for the Texas Eagle.
January 15, 1997
As 1997 begins to unfold, many issues will come before you, including the future of rail passenger transportation. At the heart of the matter is a contradiction in terms of what public transportation should represent and what is offered currently.
Amtrak announced in August, 1996 that the Texas Eagle route would be eliminated. Texas Eagle supporters, including leaders among the affected cities and individuals who support passenger rail service, worked diligently to salvage the route that is so important to their individual communities. Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, addressed those efforts by holding hearings on the proposed Amtrak closures in September, 1996. Elected officials recognized the need for dialogue to continue on this matter and dedicated federal funds as a reprieve through May 10, 1997. We are asking you to re-engage your commitment to Amtrak's Texas Eagle.
Cities along the Texas Eagle route are launching a comprehensive marketing plan, working jointly to increase ridership. Amtrak pathfinder signs will be installed to increase public awareness of an additional mode of transportation as well as facility location. The new Arkansas state maps are including Amtrak in its legend and the Arkansas Department of parks and Tourism is willing to promote Amtrak in its brochures. More equitable distribution of cars, and expanding the Texas Eagle to daily service, would give Amtrak significantly increased ridership.
Individual states should not have to compete against each other to be served. Passenger rail service is needed nation-wide and should not be eliminated incrementally. If any tax dollars are dedicated to Amtrak for passenger rail service, then a mandate should accompany that funding requiring that service continue where it presently exists. Passenger rail service to Texas and Arkansas is critical at a time when tourism is increasing. Texas has replaced Florida as the number two state in the union for tourism and Arkansas, home state of President Clinton, has an increasing number of visitors as well. Arkansas, the Natural State, has some of the most beautiful scenery in the nation that Texas Eagle passengers can enjoy. Communities in Arkansas have spent several thousands of dollars to beautifully restore depots, and Amtrak needs to capitalize on this community-based investment.
Although poor planning, marketing, and promotional efforts have created financial problems for Amtrak, we stand ready to assist on the local level, in both Arkansas and Texas. Congress should require Amtrak to be more accountable for its performance and the breadth of its service. We join our friends in the Texas Eagle Coalition in saying, "It must be done. It can be done. And now is the time."
Thank you for your careful consideration. We need you to help us "save the Eagle."
Jim Dailey, Mayor of Little Rock
Bill Scrimshire, Mayor of Malvern
Mike Kolb, Mayor of Arkadelphia
J.R. Rogers, Mayor of Walnut Ridge
Barrett Jones, City Manager of Texarkana, AR
Don Melton, Office of Governor Mike Huckabee
Bill Pollard, Arkansas Association of Railroad Passengers
Prepared for Arkansas Rail by Dr. Bill
Pollard (501) 329-9060 - Email: email@example.com
Posted: Friday, February 14, 1997.
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