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September 1998 General Meeting Minutes

September 1998 General Meeting Minutes

Washington Association of Rail Passengers Board of Directors' Meeting
September 12, 1998 - University Plaza Hotel, Seattle, Washington
Executive Committee Members:
Chuck Mott, President
Ellen Barton, Secretary
Dennis Fait, Vice President-West
Lloyd Flem, Executive Director
Hans Mueller, Treasurer
Jim Hamre, Newsletter Editor
Mike Skehan, Vice President - Commuter Rail

Board of Directors:
Stuart Adams, Steve Spear, Dale Menchhofer, Eleanor Stewart, Warren Yee, Jim Langston, Paul Scott, Noel Hancock Jim Neal, Craig Thorpe, Tony Trifiletti

Members and Guests:
David Beal(Sound Transit), Leroy Chadwick, Jim Cowardin, Dick Hinea, Ken Potter, Mark Stoddard, John Kukec (Amtrak)

Meeting Minutes:

The meeting was called to order at 12:20 p.m. by President Chuck Mott. The agenda was approved as written.

The August meeting minutes were corrected to change the title of Gil Carmichael to "former FRA official," instead of the erroneous "Senator". With that correction, the minutes were approved unanimously.

The treasurer's report was filed with the Secretary and is available for interested Board members upon request.

Committee & Section Reports:

Conference & Outreach: Tony Trifiletti thanked Jim Hamre for his assistance in mailing the nearly 2,000 announcement flyers. 40 attendees had responded so far. Mayor Schell declined the invitation to deliver the luncheon speech, but an appropriate substitute is being invited by Hal Cooper

Guest Speaker: Amtrak Cascades Service Director John Kukec spoke of his responsibilities in marketing and improved customer service. Speaking of the new Talgo cars which are being manuafactured in Tukwilla, he described the amenities which make this a unique and exciting marketing project: all areas of custom and coach cars are accessible to wheelchair customers in acordance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, all seats will be equipped with computer hook-ups, each car entrance will have improved wheelchair lifts.

The Roll-out events scheduled for November 30, 1998, will take place simultaneously from two locations on the corridor: one from Seattle heading to Portland, the other from Vancouver, B.C., heading to Seattle. Each will depart around 10 am and have celebratory events at each station along the way. The southbound morning train from Vancouver is an unscheduled dignitary train and does not represent the beginning of "second train" runs for the Mt. Baker International. At this time, the projected start date for the second train is July, 1999.

Media promotions for the new Talgo equipment will emphasize two qualities, in sequential stages. First, the newness; then, in a second series of local ads, convenience will be emphasized.

First Public Unveiling of J. Craig Thorpe's newest commissioned painting, titled "Northwest Pastorale" features two of the newly liveried Talgo trains passing in a scenic area south of Seattle. The Artist described the setting and the reasons for design choices and President Chuck Mott, the recipient and commissioner of the painting, described the historic importance of this new rail transportation age. Reproductions of the painting will be used in promotional brochures and literature and posters for Amtrak throughout the Northwest and the country.

Tom Martin Annual Award proposal was put forth by President Chuck Mott, for the purpose of honoring individuals active in the passenger rail issues. The proposed first recipient of the award is outgoing Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) chief, Bob Drewel in recognition of his excellent work in promoting a successful passenger rail expansion in the Puget Sound area. The award will consist of a plaque and a unique ceiling-mounted train-whistle with pull rope, tastefully combining the practical and the humorous sensibilities which won Bob many admirers in his term of office.

Motion: that WashARP present the Tom Martin Memorial Award to Bob Drewel in recognition of his service to passenger rail and that this award be presented at a ceremony on September 24, 1998. Moved: D. Fait; Seconded: J. Hamre; Approved: unanimously.

Eastern Washington Division Section member, Jim Neal, requested that WashARP express its support for a feasibility study to be conducted by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) on increased passenger rail service to the Eastern Washington region. In order to increase public awareness of WashARP and of the need for this study, Jim Neal proposed to conduct some public meetings in regard to that proposed study.

Motion: that the Board of Directors declare its support for the feasibility study for improved passenger rail service to Eastern Washington to be conducted by WSDOT during 1999, and that Jim Neal be authorized to conduct public meetings in that regard, between November and December, 1998. Moved: J. Neal; Seconded: P. Scott; Approved: unanimously.

Discussion centered on the large population between Spokane and the mountains and the interest which the Talgo has generated among inhabitants of that region. Preliminary research indicates that the Chambers of Commerce and the Mayors are cordial and interested. President Chuck Mott agreed to attend a kick-off meeting starting in Spokane or Wenatchee provided it took place after November 15.

Executive Director's Report:

Shane Gill of Alabama met with Executive Director Lloyd Flem to pursuade Shelby that "zeroing out" Amtrak is fiscally irresponsible.

Ohio's Kazik also wants to cut Amtrak's budget back. Bud Schuster is interested in "pork" projects, which may be a way to create some common interest. Rational people are not winning even though they know and admit that highways are subsidized. Washington State should be leading the fight for more Amtrak Funding.

Jack Metcalf shows signs of coming around to rail; Linda Smith is not supportive of rail issues; Jennifer Dunn has been supportive and is favored to win in her upcoming race.

Referendum 49, a proposal to build five years of roads with 20 years of debt, among other budgetary games, generates little money for rail projects and, worse, does not set specific spending goals. If passed, there is no guarantee that funds will be spent as indicated in the referendum. WashARP takes no position on this voter issue.

Former defense contractors are expressing interest in building magnetic levitation and other high speed trains, meeting with Lloyd at the Talgo plant. Talgo will meet all safety standards, though Bombardier was using this as a political challenge to its perception that Talgo threatens Bombardier's monopoly in North America. The Executive Director of Talgo North America is impressed with WashARP and will be a good ally to have in Washington, D. C.

California is regionalizing service: all trains will not be controlled from one central location.

Amtrak is now talking about partnering with local governments and businesses and cooperating with advocates, a welcome change of approach since 15 years ago. Amtrak has shown evident admiration for the efforts of WashARP.

The U. S. Gas Tax as currently configured is the only one in the world which by its very design encourages more consumption of gas: this because of our shortsighted policy of limiting the use of gas tax revenue only to expenditures for roads. More gas means more money for roads means more gas used. Winston Churchill recognized this inefficiency of this approach half a century ago.

Freight Rail Report: Ray Allred of the WSDOT Rail Office reports on the Ballard Terminal Railroad, a success story of alliance of local businesses who rely on rail and applied for a low interest load to restore the track, creating better customer service and better visibility or presence for all concerned. The resulting operating freight service takes approximately 18,000 heavy trucks off the road. Burlington-Northern's decision to shut down the Nachez line last year, by contrast, results in at least 3,000 heavy truck trips per year. The line has not been maintained and may be donated to the town of Yakima, contingent of availability of State grant funds, and may be used for a short-line rail or a bike trail.

Study of the Grain Train success documents the enormous savings generated by this rail investment, saving thousands of heavy truck trips per year and benefitting the highways. The Port of Walla Walla is considering partnering with the State to purchase another 29 car train.

The final report on the Freigh Rail Plan is available for public review and will be published in final form in mid November. It is available at the Tumwater Public Library.

Executive Board meeting to be held October 3, 1998, at 10:30 am, at the offices of President Chuck Mott.

Upcoming Meetings:

The meeting adjourned at about 3:20 pm.

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Last Update: 01/04/00
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