The meeting was called to order at 12:30 p.m. by Chuck Mott, President. The agenda was amended to add an update on the budget session from Jim Slakey, and a report on the Amtrak Customer Advisory Committee from Noel Hancock.
The meeting minutes for April 12, 1997, were approved with two corrections (on file).
The treasurer reported a positive response to proactive calls made to non-renewing members with approximately 3 renewals per 50 calls made. Volunteers for continued calling were solicited. The annual fund raising appeal raised donations through March.
Meeting logistics coordinator, Dale Menchhofer, presented a proposal to consider a new meeting location at the University Plaza restaurant. The management of this proposed location is willing to accommodate WashARP's meeting needs over the long term. Discussion focused on arrangement of tables to maximize audibility and visibility. The proposal to change the June meeting to the new location was proposed by Eleanor Stewart, seconded by Noel Hancock
Executive Director, Lloyd Flem thanked the board for efforts to contact and inform legislators during the session. George Benson was particularly thanked for his strategic and effective calls.
WashARP is in a good position tactically: our support of the gas tax should strengthen alliances, especially with members of the Transportation Committee.
ISTEA flexibility to fund rail projects and the 1/2 cent gas tax for Amtrak capital funding are still sought by the National Association of Rail Passengers (NARP) whose goal is 100 signatories to co-sponsor bill HR1437. Currently there are 28 signatories. Consideration is being given to the option of tying funding to internal Amtrak reform. NARP President, Jack Martin, has found Amtrak unable to articulate its plans for the additional funds, should they be allocated.
Bud Schuster has appointed a blue ribbon committee to study and make recommendations on options for an improved passenger rail system. It is not yet clear what direction this group will take.
Public support for rail is growing, a recent article by Bruce Chapman notwithstanding. U. S. Senator Kempthorn (Idaho) published a letter riddled with factual errors, probably due to lack of factual data in the budget. Wall Street Journal ran a cover article extolling the virtues of high speed rail for business people, but ignoring the rest of the country. The need for greater education efforts is evident as exemplified by the people of Hood River, a town in which several residents when questioned did not know that Amtrak stopped there.
Key note speaker for the Spokane Public Transportation and Rail conference will be WashARP's Craig Thorpe. Lloyd Flem reported that he will chair a panel on land use and public affairs, possibly including representatives from Europe.
Jim Slakey, Director of the Public Transportation and Rail Division of the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT), thanked WashARP members for help in a tough legislative session marked by a lack of willingness to compromise. He particularly credited Lloyd Flem's strategic timing with helping to keep key rail programs alive and moving forward, though progress was limited. George Benson's work kept the King Street Station project alive with design work funded through 1999 at which time more funds would be needed to implement.
The final run of the Pioneer saddened Slakey and the volunteer crew in a ceremony at Centennial station. Meanwhile, WSDOT is negotiating with Burlington Northern Santa Fe to keep that passenger time slot for a Seattle-Portland round trip using Talgo equipment by autumn.
Ray Allred, WSDOT Freight Rail officer, credited WashARP members' intervention with increasing help available to short line freight operators whose capital needs for infrastructure investments are substantial and difficult to fulfill due to Federal cut backs.
Coulee City is embarking on a $7 million project to rehabilitate lines relied upon by wheat farmers. Funding requires a local match by June 30 for which the city is pursuing partnership with local businesses. The rail currently serves approximately 5,000 car loads per year.
The Port of Walla Walla is studying the feasibility of doubling its fleet of grain cars. The Port of Grays Harbor wants to keep the Grays Harbor freight line operational, though the line itself is now in the process of being sold. WSDOT is working with the Port and monitoring that sale process.
Jim Hamre, Hans Mueller, and Stuart Adams traveled to Washington D. C. for the NARP spring meeting and met with Representatives Adam Smith, Jack Metcalf and a staff member for Jennifer Dunn to educate them on the need for support for Amtrak.
WashARP President, Chuck Mott, was interviewed on KIRO radio, iterating support for Amtrak though acknowledging service problems.
The Constitution and By-Laws may be amended to add members in Montana and Idaho, pending review and recommendation at the next Executive Boardmeeting. Also to be considered are the following proposals from WashARP internet web site coordinator, Warren Yee:
NOTE: Change of location: the June meeting will be held in Seattle at The University Plaza restaurant located at the intersection of NE 45th St. and Interstate 5, from noon to 3:00 pm.July 12, Ferry Terminal meeting room, Bellingham. Note: the Bellingham meeting time will be 10:00 to 12:30 in order to take advantage of a Lake Whatcom Rail excursion.
The meeting closed with an informal speech titled "Car Addiction" by Secretary, Ellen Barton, and adjourned at 3:00 p.m.
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Last Update: 01/04/00
Web Author: Warren Y. Yee