WASHINGTON ASSOCIATION OF RAIL PASSENGERS
Board of Directors Meeting Minutes
September 8th, 2001
Meeting Place: Bob’s Burgers & Brew, Bellingham
OFFICERS AND DIRECTORS PRESENT: Jim Hamre, Noel Hancock, Robert Lawrence, Chuck Mott, Hans Mueller, Paul Scott, Rocky Shay, Eleanor Stewart, Tony Trifiletti, Warren Yee
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Lloyd Flem
OTHERS: Ellen Barton, Bill Neal, Mark Lawrence, Holly LaFreniere, Gordon Tiley, Mark Garcia, Dale Menchhofer, Ford Hill, Ian Fischer, Robert Broughton, Graeme Lamson, Dave Eley, Dave Stubbs, Doug Larson, Steve Spear, Zack Willhoite
SPECIAL GUEST: Washington State Representative Doug Erickson, 42nd District, Whatcom County
President Trifiletti called the meeting to order at 12:22PM and welcomed Canadian visitors. He explained that we meet in the field periodically, and introduced members from Northern Washington counties. He introduced the Canadian visitors to applause. They said they’re trying to get 30 million dollars to get the second train to Vancouver, BC.
Chairman Chuck Mott then said he’s looking forward to the rail summit. All the West Coast organizations are going. Jim Slakey will represent the Washington DOT. Mr. Mott said big changes are coming. WashARP’s Jay Craig Thorpe has been asked to create a picture of intercity trains going to airport with Mr. Mott’s idea for airline cargo containers on passenger trains. WashARP is already working with Seatac Airport people. An intermodal terminal was planned for the Ramada site. Mr. Mott said Former FRA Chief Gil Carmichael would testify before Congress soon. He will do an intermodal conference in Denver in October. Craig’s paintings will be there. At Seatac, the intermodal terminal would help transfer containers to Amtrak. There may be a press conference soon. Boeing and the airlines recently put out a pro-rail video for trains serving airports for the Air Transport Action Group. Many terminals have this now. Miami is building theirs.
Ian Fisher of Transport 2000 said their biggest priority is extending the second train, but the new BC government cut taxes and money is scarce. Transit is also in a bind. There may be a 20 per cent cut in transit service unless fares and taxes are raised. Vancouver, BC trolley bus service is in trouble. The buses need to be replaced. The re-launch of the Canadian is doing well. Nighstock cars will free up more conventional cars, but the Canadian is already too long in the summer. People with disabilities are unhappy with the Nightstock cars. Rumor is that Bombardier is backing them. But VIA just gave the Nightstock refurbishing project to Bombardier! Also, the Skytrain extension will open soon. The Vancouver, BC transit strike is settled.
Mr. Trifiletti recessed the meeting for lunch at 12:34pm.
Mr. Trifiletti reconvened the meeting at 12:55pm.
Mr. Trifiletti introduced Representative Doug Erickson by telling of Hal Cooper’s Cascade Foothills Corridor report & WashARP conference in 1998. Mr. Trifiletti spoke of doing a private-public project and getting Mr. Cooper on board. Rep. Erickson later mentioned it to Executive Director Flem. The plan was simplified at a meeting with Mr. Mott and Mr. Flem. Both thought Representative Erickson way ahead.
Representative Erickson said the WashARP President was entertaining and would be tough to follow. He described his district. He’s Vice Chair of the House Transportation Committee. He outlined his educational and political history. He said passenger rail is important, but the people would have voted out any revenue package the recent legislative session passed by 60 to 65 per cent. He said too much time was spent debating. Now, there’s work on a regional package and permit streamlining, which would pave the way for the Foothills Corridor and other projects of statewide significance. He said Washington is too process-oriented, thus increasing costs. Also, Foothills needs leadership, but we must protect local control. Also, there’s good progress on matching funds for federal monies over the next ten years. But the latest studies on passenger service don’t address capacity. A Foothills Corridor rail line between Sumas and Centralia could provide capacity. Representative Erickson also said people in both parties like trains, and the Vancouver BC second train would make rail a more serious option. Also, people don’t think of the time it takes to fly. We must not lose any existing trains. Representative Erickson also praised Representative Jeff Morris, who’s fought for trains. Mr. Erickson said the DOT must change, but he likes new Secretary Doug McDonald, who’s more hands-on than Former Secretary Sid Morrison. For example, McDonald helped eliminate stalls on a safety project in Representative Erickson’s district. Mr. Erickson also said a Foothills Corridor could help unsnarl the existing main line through Seattle, but could also handle utilities and trucks on limited access highway.
But he said it’s hard to get a new project going. He said it’s worth working on.
Hans Mueller asked when people might pay for toll roads. Rep. Erickson said now, if it was the right project, like the Foothills Corridor
Noel Hancock wondered if the legislature must act on matching funds soon? Mr. Erickson said it’s a ten-year project, and the legislature can act on it in the next session. He believes intercity rail is a state responsibility, while transit and buses are regional.
Mr. Flem praised Rep. Erickson as consistent. Mr. Hamre agreed, but noted the legislature killed the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax and the sales tax is already too high. He also said urban areas are subsidizing the rest of the state, and asked why they should. He said this would come back to bite rural areas.
Representative Erickson said something had to be done with Initiative 695. He said there are possibilities besides the sales tax. As for regionalization, the King County numbers may be off.. He said Whatcom County sends a dollar to the state and gets 45 cents back.
Rural areas don’t get large dollar amounts. Mr. Hamre repeated that it will be tough to convince people. Representative Erickson said one set of numbers had King County sharing a dollar and getting back a dollar-eight. Mr. Mott said the American way is cross-subsidy, like on the Interstates, to get a uniform standard of living. Mr. Mott asked Representative Erickson whether the Governor was considering changes to prevailing wage laws in rural areas. Legislative leaders killed it because Representative Clyde Ballard wanted other relief to support an increase in taxes. Asked how we’re going to do better this year if nothing’s changed, Representative Erickson said he has to tell constituents that they’ll get something for their higher taxes. The lawmakers couldn’t make a deal, but they did approve efficiencies. The Senate passed what amounted to watered-down studies. Labor killed prevailing wage reform. Rep. Erickson couldn’t get a hearing on passenger-only ferry expansion because of labor problems. He said the 49-49 tie in the House is a problem. He said you can solve it through vote-trading because of legislative rules. The speakers have veto power.
Steve Spear asked what might be addressed next time. Rep. Erickson said streamlining, design-build deals, public-private partnerships, passenger-only ferries and revenue. He said we don’t have to wait for the next election. Secretary McDonald is coming up with ways to be more efficient. Rep. Erickson cited the 4th Avenue Bridge replacement in Olympia. They did in 60 days a permit process that usually would take 2-5 years. He added that permit streamlining is not just for highways.
A BC delegate asked if US lawmakers have a policy of not replying to BC residents.
Representative Erickson apologizes and was asked about connecting transit. Rep. Erickson said there’s no answer, since customs is a huge problem and they don’t listen to lawmakers.
Ellen Barton suggested a group that does cross-border communications. She worried about an open border and said it could cause huge growth in Whatcom County.
Mr. Flem asked if Secretary McDonald would support flexible funding and maximum funds for the federal rail match. Rep. Erickson said both can be done. Both caucuses agreed last year that 1.7 of the nine billion dollar package would have gone to buses, but not much to rail.
Robert Lawrence asked if we’re more into bus connections, like California is, because buses cover most of their costs. Rep. Erickson said we have some, but Vancouver BC service is being cut. He also wondered if bus ownership mattered. Mr. Lawrence said no. Rep. Erickson said a bus operator in Whatcom County wants to do it. They’re working on it.
Mr. Hancock said he tried to get the Bellingham Airporter to stop at King Street Station. They said they couldn’t, but admitted there is a market.
Rep. Erickson said he’s not beating up on labor, but a subsidy might be needed to help. Mr. Hamre suggested getting copies of California timetables for Rep. Erickson.
Rep. Erickson closed by warning against population comparisons with California. He said some people think passenger rail won’t be viable in places like Whatcom county until 2030. But he pointed out the corridor has plenty of density. He again apologized for not writing BC residents. He said again…rail is important.
Mr. Trifiletti recessed the meeting at 1:46pm
Mr. Trifiletti reconvened the meeting at 2:06pm.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S REPORT: Mr. Flem said Board Member Dr. Ron Sheck has been hired by the DOT as State Coordinator for Sound Transit. ST will now communicate with the state. This came out of the WashARP summer picnic. Dr. Sheck will work at Union Station. Joni Earl pleased.
Mr. Flem said Gil Carmichael wants J. Craig Thorpe to do an intermodal poster from Eastern Washington, possibly with Ellensburg as a hub. Another idea…a Talgo Train at Safeco Field. The posters could be sold. Mr. Flem will talk to Jean Pierre Ruiz of Talgo. Mr. Flem is working on education and funding of rail as part of a broader program. There are few extreme opponents left. Anti-rail articles such as the recent ones in the Longview paper provided a rebuttal opportunity, and the paper did little editing. Copies were on the table. Also, Mr. Flem and Mr. Hamre did recent responses in other papers. Also doing one to counter a John Carlson pro-highway piece in the Seattle Times. Mr. Flem says these must be done relentlessly, but responsibly. Mr. Flem agrees that Secretary McDonald is great…his Boston experience useful.
We’ve been approached again by Safe Highways Initiative supporters who want to limit truck sizes by federal law. Police support this. Mr. Flem asks the board’s endorsement.
Also, One Thousand Friends of Washington wants to exchange membership. They get 500, we get 14 hundred. Mr. Hamre wondered if a vote was needed. President Trifiletti ordered the exchange done.
Mr. Flem brought up a problem with regional transit initiatives. If counties spend money locally, would that put statewide transport in an awkward spot? He asked comments later from Rep. Erickson and asked the rest of us to think about it. Mr. Flem said we are still a state.
As for Washington Fruit Express, Mr. Flem said there are statewide benefits, getting trucks off highways and Eastern Washington political support. Even Rep. Clyde Ballard supports it. Rep. Tim Sheldon of Shelton also. Reefer cars are already in central Washington. The set out on the shortline took six minutes in a test. The first two cars move Monday to Boston with pears, Tuesday to New York, Wednesday to Pittsburgh with a ceremony. Mr. Hamre will represent WashARP. Senator Parlette and other legislators, including Rep. Don Benton, are invited. Mr. Flem and other WashARP brass will be at the rail summit Wednesday. Mr. Flem praised WashARP for sponsoring the original Yakima meeting, which got WFE rolling, and working the plan through the legislature. He praised state rail people. He said it might slow long-distance trains a little, but they’re dead without it. There are questions about Yakima and Pasco. Mr. Flem said there’s no Amtrak there yet, but freight potential is enormous. Mr. Mott said when he was at the former BN, reefers got 6-7 round trips per year. WFE is light years apart. He mentioned satellite control of the cars. He predicted Amtrak will have most produce plus two transcontinental trains Seattle to Chicago within three years. He said this plus airline containers will save long-distance trains.
Mr. Hancock said planning is underway for the second train from Minneapolis to Chicago to take ten cars off the Empire Builder. Mr. Flem praised BNSF for being innovative and cooperative…the best among railroads…. its cooperation on WFE excellent.
Paul Scott mentioned lots of fat in the Empire Builder schedule between Wenatchee and Spokane.
Mr. Flem said Congressman Brian Baird might attend the November meeting. State Representative Don Carlson is also possible. Rep. Erickson said Rep. Val Ogden might attend. He then facetiously suggested the bitterly anti-rail Senator Zarelli (laughter).
Rep. Erickson said the makeup of the next legislature will be assured by the time the December meeting is held.
Mr. Flem said HSIA may be put off until 2002 and is not a top priority. As for the new 36 billion dollar HSIA, Mr. Flem said what a change in DC politics. He said Alaska’s Don Young is new on the rail issue. He said Southern states are getting extra strong on rail to help airports and highways. He said they’re not too worried about details. Mr. Flem is optimistic, especially on corridors.
Finally, Talgo is publicizing the need for investments. Mr. Flem said Talgo is best at pushing for rail. He endorsed them for the Midwest Rail Project in a recent letter.
Mr. Mott reported talking to Illinois Rail President Dave Randall and Ken Burback in Wisconsin. The Midwest project is on hold, though Wisconsin has approved 50 million dollars and is waiting for HSIA. Wisconsin backers got business support with questionnaires and by working with chambers of commerce. He thinks the painting of the intermodal terminal may help. Mr. Mott said he understands that Talgo is at the top of the list because of its low cost and passive tilting and 110 mile per hour capability.
Also, the Milwaukee Airport is ready to build a terminal to connection to Amtrak. Madison wants to build a Madison Station at the airport. It would use bonds to build the station and lease to a rail operator. Washington is ready with a ten-year plan for a Billion dollars in the next ten years and 110 mile per hour operation. If all falls together early next year, Washington will be first with an application. Work could start within a year and a half.
Mr. Trifiletti said West Virginia is being joined by Tennessee in a Norfolk Southern plan to improve rail for trucks, instead of highways, between Knoxville and Memphis by reinstalling the old Tennessee Central.
Mr. Hancock asked about the Seattle-to-Cle Elum plan. Was told that if there’s no Amtrak service, a way will be found for Trendwest Resorts to do it. Representative Erickson mentioned the Legislature helping this along.
Mr. Mueller mentioned an Eastern Washington article about expansion of I-90. He said rail improvement would be better.
Mr. Menchhofer asked about funding for the NS project. It is a state and federal partnership with 481 million dollars. Mr. Trifiletti said it is probably a partnership, not loans or grants. Mr. Mott said the NS project could be done far faster. Also, the RF & P is going triple-rack with help from Virginia. Then there’s the Broad Street Station project. There’s a big change in Class One management thinking on funding. He said the Class Ones now know they can’t do capital funding alone. Mr. Mott said he likes keeping government out of business, but this is good…just like airlines do. Laughter as Mr. Mott said you can’t outspend government.
Mr. Trifiletti said long distance trucking firms are enthusiastic about the NS project because it will save them money. Mr. Menchhofer asked if states are getting much for their dollar. Mr. Trifiletti said he didn’t know, but Mr. Mott said our rail office watches
money it gives railroads closely. Getting trucks off the road is a big cost factor, so we
need to make these investments. Mr. Mott said the oversight conditions are worth the benefits, one of which is handling trade challenges in the world economy.
A BC member asked clarification on piggybacking vs. container. Mr. Mott said it’s piggyback piggyback, only the tractor drives the trailer on. It is not the same as the Chunnel.
Ellen Barton of the Council of Governments is working on Scenic Byways and Trails, but the group also does transit planning. She mentioned the International Mobility and Trade Corridor. They’re working with the Discovery Institute. This grew out of waits at the border. So talks based on economics started. Pace lanes have been saved and are being marketed now. People just weren’t aware of them. Backups are starting on the pace lanes, though. Also, origin and destination studies and studies of I-5 and rail are on. Semiamoo is being built up, possibly a White Rock ferry. This is new for the Council of Governments. New Executive Jim Miller dubbed Whatcom County "The Fighting 39th. He’s working hard in Olympia.
Mr. Trifiletti welcomed Ms. Barton back.
Ms. Barton also mentioned an odd idea she’d heard for a park and ride at the border. She’d like it replaced by rail.
Mr. Trifiletti offered closing remarks. He thanked all for coming and said he enjoyed his recent trip to Vancouver, BC. He said he was glad to see North WashARPers.
President Trifiletti adjourned the meeting at 3:03pm.
Rocky Shay, Secretary
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