OFFICERS AND DIRECTORS PRESENT: Jim Hamre, Noel Hancock, Robert Lawrence, Chuck Mott, Hans Mueller, Jim Neal, Paul Scott, Rocky Shay, J.Craig Thorpe, Anthony Trifiletti,.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Lloyd Flem
OTHERS: Ray Allred, Steven Anderson, John Aylmer, Robert Boltz, Dennie Chelemedos, Cliff Collins, Hal Cooper, Robert Eaton, Ann Hewitt, Bill Hewitt, Ele Jones, Mark Lawrence, Dale Menchhofer, Roger Mumm, Rita Neal, State Senator Linda Evans Parlette, State Transportation Commissioner Elmira Fourner, Don Senn, Zack Willhoite, Harry Campbell, Ivan Cristensen, Louis Musso III, Charles Pominek
Welcome by President Tony Trifiletti and invitation to lunch at 11:58AM.
The meeting was convened by President Trifiletti at 12:34PM.
Introduction by President Trifiletti, saying that Washington is not two states, that Washarp is fighting for Eastern Washington rail service. Special welcome to members from Eastern Washington.
Chairman Chuck Mott then welcomed the members. He and others were just back from Congress. The American Passenger Rail Coalition, a suppliers group, is now working for HSIA. Washington State will apply for a billion dollars and match 20 per cent over eleven years. Mr. Mott met with Senator Patty Murray and Congressmen Rick Larson and Brian Baird. Senator John McCain personally blocked HSIA last year. Other Senators are working to change his mind. Mr. Mott praised Vice President Jim Neal for his work in Eastern Washington.
Mr. Neal said he's working on a day train for Eastern Washngton, but it will take time. There are plenty of people to ride, plus holiday traffic jams and mountain snows to encourage them. He asked for all Washarp's help.
State Senator Linda Evans Parlette, cherry orchardist and pharmacist, replaced the late George Sellar in the Senate. Her family arrived by train in Wenatchee from Pittsburgh generations ago. She grew up in an apple family, is now raising cherries and pears...and likes trains. Her husband has a military background and likes Senator McCain. She wants to get them together. Her husband helped get the Daylight engine to Wenatchee several years ago. Senator Parlette said Washington is by far the largest producer and exporter of apples in the nation. Also strong in winter pears and sweet cherries. North Central Washington fruit sales are now 6-800 million dollars per year. Expect more grape growing and agri-tourism. She became interested in Amtrak when Executive Director Lloyd Flem told her about the possibility of using it to ship fruit and produce. She sent him to Senator Sellar, who was on the Transportation Committee. Sellar got money into the budget for Apples on Amtrak. The recent Brewster WA to Hartford, Connecticut test was successful. She said she hopes Amtrak can keep the long distance trains going. She then produced and put on a Burlington Northern hat. Last words from Senator Parlette...keep up the good work. Mr. Mott, Mr. Trifiletti and Mr. Flem presented the Tom Martin Award to Senator Parlett, with instructions on how to blow the horn. She called it a great birthday party surprise.
President Trifiletti then introduced Charlie Pominek, the head of the Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association. Mr. Pominek has an Empire Builder hat in his office. They ship eleven hundred truckloads of fruit a week. When the association was formed in 1917, the business all went by rail. Now it's 2-3 carloads a month. But there's a serious shortage of trucks. When trucks are not available, revenue is lost. The DOT's Ray Allred invited him to the Yakima meeting introducing Apples on Amtrak almost two years ago. He thought the meeting wouldn't amount to anything, but went to explain the fruit growers' problems. Amtrak people at the meeting convinced him that Apples on Amtrak might work. He says Apples on Amtrak can at least match trucks in time and price. He predicts ten railcars a day possible from Wenatchee East, but probably nothing to Seattle. It will be about ten cars a WEEK at first. Before leaving, Mr. Pominek thanked Senator Parlette, Senator Sellar posthumously, and the Washington DOT for their work on the program.
Asked by a member about switching problems in Wenatchee, Mr. Mott said Burlington Northern Santa Fe is trying to make them as painless as possible, fast enough that no schedule time be added to the Empire Builder between Seattle and Spokane. He said long-distance trains will likely die if Amtrak on Apples and the Express Initiative fail. But railroads got about 50 per cent of their passenger train revenues from mail and express. Transportation Secretary Mineta is not ruling out cutting back long distance trains.
Mr. Hancock said most passengers he's talked to would rather have express than no trains.
Asked by a member about existing express boxcar success, Mr. Allred said it brings in much less revenue than apples will.
Asked about double-stacks on Amtrak, Steve Anderson of the DOT said there are wind resistance and clearance issues.
Transportation Commissioner Elmira Fourner, former chairman Tom Greene's replacement on the commission, wished Greene well in taking over Wenatchee Transit. She served five years on the House Transportation Committee and called Apples on Amtrak a good example of out-of-the-box thinking. She has told the Asphalt Pavers that partnerships are important. She says the commission is trying to convince lawmakers that the must invest in transportation, but will get a dollar's worth for every dollar.
President Trifiletti declared a 12-minute break at 1:29PM. Meeting reconvened at 1:41.
Mr. Trifiletti introduced Steven Anderson and Ray Allred of the DOT to discuss the Eastern Washington study. WASHarp was the first to see it because the February 28th earthquake interrupted its official presentation. Further Stampede Pass rehab costs are very high. He showed picture of new Washington Fruit Express car. 50 cars are on order. Governor Locke's budget allows 200 more. Reaction to pictures favorable. Mr. Anderson says Amtrak wondering how they'll handle all the volume with a 30-car limit.
J. Craig Thorpe has been approached by Amtrak to do a WFE poster. It has the Empire Builder picking up fruit at Wenatchee, with a BNSF diesel unit in the background, plus the logos of six groups involved in the program. They're ready for the September kickoff.
Mr. Anderson credited Senator Parlette with getting Washington Fruit Express into the budget. He said Ray Allred came up with the idea, and pushing it before shippers associations. Now cherry growers, onion and potato growers, and even potato shippers in the Skagit Valley want in. Nursery plant operators are interested. Apples and pears may make more partnering possible. But Roadrailers won't work for this because they have 1/3rd the capacity of boxcars per unit. Mixed partial boxcar loads are possible. Railroads get just under nine equipment turns a year, Amtrak can get three a MONTH. Sending fruit to Canada is possible, but Customs may be a problem. They're looking at how to get Washington Fruit Express to Texas. Mr. Anderson offered some favorable truck vs Amtrak rate comparisons. He mentioned that the new cars will have smaller refrigeration units with satellite transponders so temperatures can be remote-controlled! They will also have an Acela logo. Only problem in recent test shipment....it got to the East coast so fast that crews weren't ready for it. The only damage...a receiving worker dropped a box. He showed a picture of the test with loaned Amtrak Express-trak car 74001. He also said that BNSF is treating the Empire Builder case separately and will allow up to 16 express cars. BNSF may become a full partner in Washington Fruit Express. Bottlenecks in Chicago may be a problem, but the program will replace the recently-departed largest lumber shipper on the Cascade and Columbia River Railroad. Washington Fruit Express will at first run out of Wenatchee, the go to Pasco and hopefully Yakima, where there's the most produce revenue.
Mr. Scott asked about extra engines. Mr. Mott asked about backhauls. Mr. Anderson said frozen chicken parts to Asia are possible. Florida Citrus is a possibility also, between here and Texas and here and Florida. For cars, Amtrak and Express Trak will have a sub-lease, so the state will get payments. That's better than the original idea of a 25-year loan. The first new car, to be delivered late this year, must be tested at the DOT Test Center at Pueblo, then the other 49 cars will come. There have been inquires about these from private investors. Amtrak has approved the new-car design after resolving some concerns about weight. Meanwhile, 10-15 Express Trak loaner cars should be here by fall, possibly more by Christmas. The two car types will then work together until the bigger cars arrive. Mr. Mott asked clairification of the lease deal. It is similar to the King Street Station redevelopment, where the developer will soon own the station. The lease arrangement on the cars is for five years with a revolving fund. It can be renewed. The state can also authorize the lease of more cars.
Mr. Cristiansen asked if Amtrak solutions to express car problems could help with the Washington Fruit Express cars...and was told those are already in the specs. Mr. Lawrence asked about frozen foods, but the railroads say THAT traffic is THEIRS. It came out here that the WFE cars have now been given heat, cooling and flow thru ventilation to handle many types of produce and fruit.
Mr. Chelemedos asked about the cost of the cars....200 thousand dollars each. Chairman Mott praised the lease deal. Says the Washington Rail Office is staffed with good business people.
Mr. Anderson said Initiative 695 cut the East-West rail study by about 7/8ths, thus the focus on Stampede Pass. More siding and signalling needed. A big investment could produce a seven-hour Seattle-Spokane running time. Operating cost...14 million dollars a year. All the rail office can do is give the study to the legislature.
Mr. Mueller asked how such a project would compare to I-90 capacity increases. Mr. Anderson said it's comparable. One possibility...a stub train from Yakima connecting to the Empire Builder Portland section at Pasco, surviving largely on fruit revenue. He said the Yakima line does have the most passenger potential. There have already been discussions with Amtrak.
Mr. Anderson closed by saying perishable business could save the long-distance trains and even mentioned another possible fruit route...Wenatchee-Chicago-New Orleans-Jacksonville.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS REPORT: Executive Director Lloyd Flem said Mrs. George Sellar regretted being unable to come. He mentioned that Washington Fruit Express was born largely of efforts to get the Pioneer back. Mr. Flem helped organize the Yakima introductory meeting and said people there appreciated interest from the West. Mr. Flem then praised Washarp members from Central Washington, and for Transportation Commissioner Elmira Fourner. Mr. Flem said his Amtrak trip to Wenatchee was fine, but the thruway bus from the North delayed the train for half an hour. He thanked Noel Hancock for his five years of service on the Amtrak Advisory Committee...representing the West with good suggestions, many of them cost-free. The group gave Mr. Hancock a round of applause.
Mr. Hancock said Amtrak doesn't seem to want NARP or Washarp people on the Customer Advisory Committee any more. But he said WASHarp is highly regarded in DC because of its accomplishments.
Mr. Flem spoke of addressing CEO's of rail suppliers at the request of Former Congressman Al Swift. They want to build true high-speed trains, but NARP seems uninterested. Mr. Flem represented rail advocates at the meeting. Jean-Pierre Ruiz was there for Talgo. He said anti-rail consultant Wendell Cox is wrong...rail is not "dying" in Europe. Rail, in fact, can beat air for business travel if you can get travel time under three hours, as our Washington DOT has said for years.
Mr. Flem also praised quiet cars...the problem is the supply of cars.
Mr. Flem said Former Congressman Swift gave WASHarp credit for getting him involved in passenger trains in Bellngham about twelve years ago. Swift told the rail suppliers that they have no time to fight among themselves when aviation and highways have 90 per cent of US transportation investment. The suppliers are also talking about preparing an advocates' handbook. The suppliers compared freight railroad attitudes on passenger trains. They said BNSF is very positive, especially in the Cascadia Corridor. CSX is not so positive. NS sent an attorney who was both positive and full of original ideas. CP threatened to charge high rates for passenger trains in Canada, but it can't do that in the US.
One delegate got the Class One's to admit that they've lost a lot of business and must do better.
The delegates got a look at a rebuilt New York turboliner, which Mr. Flem says has better seats than the Talgos. Mr. Anderson also criticized the Talgo seats (which Talgo was forced to take because of buy-America requirements), but Mr. Flem said the Talgos are otherwise better than the New York turbos.
Mr. Flem and Mr. Mott met Washington's new Secretary of Transportation, Doug McDonald. It turns out that his successor, McDonald, likes trains and has studied Cascade Mountain railroad tunnels. He wants to get the maximum bang for the buck and says trains must be part of the picture. Both men said Washington's rail office is respected nationwide.
Mr. Flem said HSIA is vital and the recent change of power in the Senate, with Patty Murray taking anti-Amtrak Richard Shelby's chairmanship of the Transportation Appropriations Committee, was a great development.
Locally, Mr. Flem says he has met with Senator Parlette and other Republicans who favor the rail program. He said the Washington Association of Business wants more gasoline tax, and Representative Gary Chandler of Moses Lake wants to change the 18th amendment to allow spending it on rail projects. He urged that we write our lawmakers, starting our letters by praising their efficiency moves.
Mr. Anderson thanked Mr. Flem and Mr. Mott for helping the rail office get more access to the Secretary of Transportation.
Mr. Mott then offered closing remarks. He called the DC suppliers meeting a heady experience. He said it was encouraging to see members of Congress supporting HSIA. He said rail is re-emerging as the third leg of the transportation stool in government policy and funding...fast. HSIA is the key....efficient because rail investment gives up to ten times more productivity than roads, and experts are starting to agree. Mr. Mott said Amtrak as a for-profit organization is flawed and overregulated by Congress, the FRA and the Executive Branch. He thinks it will be replaced soon by something with enough capital funding, a streamlined organization and less political oversight.
Mr. Neal asked clarification on "million" or "billion" for rail here in Washington. Mr. Mott said he showed members of Congress a 1.1 Billion dollar plan, using HSIA money. The state would need to put in 200 million to get the HSIA funds. This would provide 110 mile an hour top speed service between Seattle and Portland and two-hour service Seattle to Vancouver, BC. Expect our state to apply quickly once HSIA is approved.
Mr. Mott says rail is now being perceived by policy makers as the only underutilized mode that we can exploit quickly and cheaply, when it now takes 20 years and billions of dollars to build a new Interstate highway. He said to write your members of Congress to support HSIA. Washington Congressman Brian Baird has agreed to be a sponsor. Rep. James Oberstar of Minnesota will be the lead sponsor in the House.
Mr. Scott wondered about other co-sponsors and whether the bill will be given priority handling, as Senators Lott and Daschle agreed. Mr. Mott said it's too early to tell on sponsors, and the Lott-Daschle deal may be dead.
Mr. Anderson mentioned Washington House Bill 1020, which would give assistance for shortlines, especially on infrastructure. He asked WASHarp's support for 1020.
Mr. Mott then suggested letters to lawmakers mentioning how rail benefits their constituents.
President Trifiletti praised Washarp members Robert Lawrence and Dale Menchhofer for their work on the Wenatchee meeting, especially the stocked bar.
Ray Allred said the January 2000 Yakima meeting was historic and got Apples on Amtrak rolling.
Mr. Trifiletti called Mr. Flem the father of Apples on Amtrak in many ways.
President Trifiletti adjourned the meeting at 3:25PM.Respectfully submitted,
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