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July 2001 General Meeting Minutes

July 2001 General Meeting Minutes


Board of Directors Meeting Minutes

July 14, 2001

Meeting Place: University Plaza Hotel, Seattle

OFFICERS AND DIRECTORS PRESENT: Stuart Adams, John Carlin, Erik Griswold, James Hamre, Noel Hancock, Robert Lawrence, Hans Mueller, Rocky Shay, Dr. Ron Sheck, Eleanor Stewart, Anthony Trifiletti, Warren Yee.


OTHERS: Jim Cusick, Bev Maier, Tak Araki, Bill Neal, Zack Willhoite, Mark Lawrence, Dennie Chelemedos, Susan Sauer, Darlene Flem, Robert Rohrer, Steve Spear, John Holley, Ray Allred, Ray Holden, Pete Van Zanten.

President Trifiletti called the meeting to order at 12:59PM. He outlined the agenda, then gave a reminder that Mr. Mueller wishes to step down from the Treasurer post. Volunteers are needed. Also, there there will soon be an effort by mail to get more NARP members into WashARP. The group accepted by consensus President Trifiletti’s proposal to move the December meeting from the traditional first Saturday to the second.

TREASURER’S REPORT: Mr. Carlin gave the report for Mr. Mueller. He said the better part of over five thousand dollars has been spent on promotion and lunches. We have some new members, some renewals. A special appeal brought in 860 dollars. Ending balance just over 23 thousand. Mr. Mueller said the Wenatchee meeting made a slight profit.

The meeting broke for lunch at 1:04pm.

President Trifiletti reconvened the meeting at 1:35pm.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S REPORT: Mr. Flem said the legislature was ready to go back into session, hopefully to take care of transportation. In Congress, House Bill 2329 is the House version of HSIA, Senate Bill 250. The House Bill steers funds more toward Amtrak. We prefer the Senate Bill, which allows others in. High-speed rail has more support in Congress than Amtrak. Six Washington members of Congress are sponsoring. McDermott is late because of a staff change, but will sponsor. Mr. Flem wrote letters of thanks to each member. Congressman Larson and Baird were asked to try to change the house language, partly because Amtrak could be in danger in 2003. Both Washington senators are sponsoring. Senator Murray chairs the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee. Murray did well by Washington, mostly for roads, but also for Sound Transit Light Rail and Sounder. No money for short lines, but good money for the Fast Corridor Grade Crossing Project. Anti-rail senators Gramm, McCain and Shelby now less powerful, thanks to Senator Jeffords. HSIA looking good. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson still strongly supports a national system. In the legislature, Senator Linda Evans Parlette impressed the Senate GOP caucus with her Tom Martin award. The son of Representative Gary Chandler of Moses Lake died recently. WashARP sent a condolence card.

The State Transportation Budget is bare bones for everybody. Rail survived. See pages 22, 28, and 29. Senate Democratic Leader Sid Snyder sent a quarter of the small cap money to his district in Grays Harbor. The lawmakers are now working on a new budget. There are three transportation investment budgets on the table. Mr. Van Zanten asked about a second Vancouver BC train. Mr. Flem said it is in the Governor’s budget, but dependent on BC money. It is looking better now. Congressman Larson is working to get the Canadian money. Mr. Griswold noted the cancellation of the connecting Bellingham Thruway Bus. Mr. Carlin said he has used a bike. Mr. Flem said DOT can’t make the bus a priority right now. Mr. Hamre said that Amtrak is not properly displaying the Bellingham train on the Internet. Mr. Griswold said we need to have trains thru Seattle. It’s being done now, but is not on the schedule. Same train number on equipment run-throughs would help.

MEMBERSHIP AND MARKETING REPORT: Chairman Robert Lawrence said WashARP would staff a table in Redmond at the Seafair Bicycle Race. WashARP membership recently dipped below 500, briefly. Fundraising letter should help.

The Committee is scouting out the Fairhaven site for the September meeting.

There have been complaints about the Tukwila station…no directional sights, no Amtrak schedules. But parking is plentiful. Mr. Hancock said he had seen one directional sign on the West Valley Highway…and, the station is served by the Metro 140 Route.

Mr. Hamre asked for the September meeting information by the end of the month.

Secretary Shay then called the roll of the Board. Ten of 15 members were present.

BOARD MEETING: President Trifiletti presided in place of Chairman Chuck Mott.

Mr. Mueller moved to approve the May and June minutes. Mr. Hamre seconded. Mr. Shay asked if the board approved of his expanded minutes format. The board said "yes". May and June minutes were approved unanimously. President Trifiletti said NARP is putting together a Jack Martin memorial in the Atlanta Amtrak Station, listing NARP and its affiliated state organizations. He asked the board if WashARP wants to contribute, and if so, how much. Mr. Hamre said yes. But Mr. Mueller said contributions should be on an individual basis. Asked by Mr. Trifiletti why Mr. Hamre supports a group contribution, Mr. Hamre responded that we should honor Mr. Martin. Mr. Carlin said this should not be a WashARP priority. Mr. Griswold said the Atlanta station is not appropriate. Dr. Sheck suggested creating a fund at WashARP for individual contributions, with the Treasurer then sending a check. Mr. Mueller suggested hat-passing for the next three months. Mr. Rohrer suggested advertising for contributions in NARP news. Mr. Hamre said we might collecting funds by a deadline, and suggested using picnic funds. Mr. Lawrence wanted to making it portable. Mr. Trifiletti said he liked Mr. Mueller’s suggestion for individual contributions. Dr. Sheck suggested September 1st as a deadline. President Trifiletti approved.

Board Member Warren Yee arrived at 2:35 PM. Now eleven of 15 Board members present.

COMMUTER RAIL SECTION REPORT: Chairman Erik Griswold just back from Europe. He reported first on the Portland Riverfront Streetcar…15 minutes from Union Station to Portland State University. The system may be extended to the River Place Development. It now originates North of the Union Station Post Office. Tri-Met Max service to Portland Airport starts soon with three stations on developable land. The terminal is near the Horizon gates. Mr. Griswold showed the members pictures of trains to the Volkswagen plant in Dresden, Germany, and pointed to materials on the back table. Mr. Griswold invited people to the Commuter Rail Section meeting Thursday. He said he was trying to get BNSF people to talk to the meeting about Sounder. Mr. Spear asked about the third Sounder train. It hangs on the Freighthouse Square station project. No contract yet. Mr. Rohrer wondered why no Everett service. Mr. Griswold said….695. Money is needed for signals and more track. There are also environmental issues from building additional roadbed into salmon habitat. Mr. Willhoite said Tacoma light rail construction started last week. Mr. Hamre said the Environmental Impact Statement is done on the Sounder Tacoma-to-Lakewood project. But there is still no contract with Tacoma Rail. Mr. Chelemedos is working on light rail. The recent Rainier Valley meeting was both angry and anti-rail. Mr. Griswold said he doubts either the Rainier Valley line or the Capitol Hill tunnel will be built because of costs. He likes the idea of switching priority to Sounder. Mr. Hamre worried that we haven’t accomplished much. He said Tuck Wilson’s return to Portland indicates that the situation may now be hopeless. One problem…the Sound Transit Board is part-time. Mr. Hamre noted that Bart has an elected board. Mr. Chelemedos said the Monorail has a good chance. Mr. Hamre disagreed. Mr. Hancock noted that state law requires the existing Sound Transit Board structure, but that must be changed.

PUBLICITY COMMITTEE: Chairman Ron Sheck thanked those who staffed the WashARP booth at the Wallingford Street Fair. He said there weren’t too many signups, but there were a lot of transportation groups. He said the Elevated Transportation Company had the best booth and the most interest. Seattle City Councilman Richard Conlin visited the WASHarp booth. Work is continuing on the Rail Summit in San Carlos, California, just before Railvolution. Meeting set for Wednesday the 12th. In the morning, how agencies and advocates can work together. In the afternoon, what are our priorities, like equipment utilization and commuter trains on weekends. Dr. Sheck said he would visit the Portland Streetcar in the coming week. There are five Czech-built triple-articulated cars, two of those on option. They are staffed by Tri-Met under contract. Drivers are said to prefer Bombardier and Siemens equipment.

Dr. Sheck said the Max Airport line opens September 10th. Mr. Hamre said that shows you must always get the first line built. Dr. Sheck thanked Mr. Hamre for bringing up Seattle light rail. Dr. Sheck met recently with Congressman McDermott, who said Sound Transit has to have something together. The S.T. Board is to vote on a starter segment September 27th. He agreed with Mr. Griswold that light rail will fall apart if it is not started soon. Dr. Sheck is cautiously optimistic. Dr. Sheck is involved in Rail Transit Now, an organization formed by Downtown Seattle’s business community to work on Sound Transit Light Rail. Dick Ford, Diane Fenessey and other important people involved. Dr. Sheck says the Rainier Valley Chamber of Commerce still supports light rail. Elsewhere, there is still a movement in California to get the Coast Daylight back. Caltrain ridership is up. ACE is adding a fourth round trip and extending to Modesto. The F Line Streetcar is extending to Fishermen’s Wharf in San Francisco. Light rail extensions are planned as well. Mr. Hancock asked if Monorail trains can switch tracks. Yes, as in Jacksonville. Mr. Yee said he understands Wendell Cox is visiting Railvolution.

FREIGHT RAIL: Mr. Allred said a Grays Harbor project or 108-car uni grain trains from Nebraska is a big coup…good for jobs. But Mr. Hamre wondered if the trains would block Wal-Mart access. Negotiations with involved parties are still ongoing. But trains are needed badly, with loss of many forestry jobs. Mr. Hamre asked if this is taking other jobs. Mr. Allred responded that this is new business. Mr. Lawrence asked what commodity will be carried. Mr. Allred thinks corn. Mr. Allred says the state has purchased 4 ½ miles of track from BNSF at Yelm. The state will build a connector from Tacoma Rail. Also the Meeker Southern, the original NP main line from Tacoma, needs bare-bones rehab to increase its five-mile per hour speed limit. It carries a lot of steel, plywood and panel products. Washington Fruit Express will start either next month or in September. Negotiations are almost done. ExpressTrak cars are on the way. Now will shippers use it? Mr. Allred said Mr. Flem’s work on this in the next couple of weeks will be critical. Mr. Hamre asked about the Morton line. Mr. Allred said it should be reopened by the end of September following repairs. Three sawmills want to ship by rail. The line has been out of service for five years. Lumber from packwood could be transloaded at Morton. It would be good for passenger trains to Mt. Rainier if upgraded to FRA Class 2, 25 miles per hour. On the Naches Line…there is a court judgment against the current operator. The State can take back the line and find a new operator. The line is already two-thirds rehabilitated, but there are legal issues. Yakima County wants the line to help with development. Mr.Yee asked Olympia-Lacey line commuter service. Mr. Allred said right now, the line carries only 12 cars a year over three miles. BNSF wants to sell it to Lacey. It has been studied for commuter service.

Jim Cusick spoke of helping on Issaquah Trolley. He praised Barbara Justice, who runs the project. Rumor has it that rails may go back out to the lake. He said traffic ebbs and flows. Expect car barn construction in the next couple of weeks.

405 REPORT: Mr. Cusick says there’s a plan now for two more general purpose lanes, with expanded bus service preferred. But more rail is needed. Mr. Cusick says 1000 Friends of Washington and the Transportation Choices Coalition want a new Alternative 5. Their Website says you can’t build out of congestion with lanes and buses. They dispute arguments against rail. They say it would take 45 yeas to pay for lane alternatives with a gasoline tax. They say enlarging 405 would take too much real estate. Double-decking has aesthetic problems, worsens sprawl. The Sensible Solutions plan is not specific on rail, but Professor Bob Johnson from UCLA says the rail ridership model that’s used is from the 60’s. It said nobody would ride trains. Mr. Cusick says we should try to focus people’s attention on the BNSF right-of-way, despite Kennydale neighborhood objections and sticky Renton issues. Some Kennydale residents think moving the tracks could help. A decision on a plan is coming in September, and the preferred non-rail plan is NOT a slam-dunk.

Mr. Hancock asked for the days of operation of the Issaquah Trolley. Mr. Cusick said right now, 11am-3pm weekends only.

Mr. Flem praised Bill Weeks, a former WashARP and NARP board member who died recently. We learned of his death through NARP. Mr. Flem is trying to find family members and send a condolence card. He asked for and received a moment of silence for Mr. Weeks.

President Trifiletti opened the meeting for questions. Mr. Rohrer asked about Amtrak’s 2003 self-sufficiency deadline. Mr. Flem said that if Amtrak comes close, Republican Leader Trent Lott will move to give them more time. Break-even is possible because of changes in depreciation rules and payments for retirement wages to workers going back to before Amtrak was created. But Amtrak is not now on track for self-sufficiency. Amtrak and the General Accounting Office disagree on that. Mr. Griswold said Congress must decide if Amtrak is to be a business or a public service. He pointed out that Amtrak’s claim of a 59 million dollar annual subsidy is the same as what the FAA spends on essential air service.

President Trifiletti adjourned the meeting at 3:29pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Rocky Shay, Secretary

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