RailPAC/NARP March Conference report 3: Bronte and Capon March 20th, 2007
This report covers the presentations by William Bronte and Ross Capon from the morning session following Mr. Kummant. Andrew C. Selden’s presentation is in the next report.
RailPAC VP North, Art Lloyd, moderated the session. In the PHOTO below, left to right, Mr. Lloyd is at the podium, with NARP Executive Director Ross Capon, Minnesota RPA President/URPA Andrew C. Selden, and Caltrans Rail Program Chief William “Bill” Bronte, with RailPAC’s website maintainer Bill Lindley ready to operate the powerpoint presentations.
Mr. Bronte was introduced by Art Lloyd as, “a good friend.” Bill responded by saying that while he works for a “highway department,” his rail program is a vital part of California’s transportation commitment. California “has had lots of luck and money that have put us where we are, from the day Senator Jim Mills learned that Amtrak wanted to add a 4th ‘San Diegan’ California has stood up and contributed to get us where we are today” with the successful state supported trains running in three corridors. He complimented organizations like RailPAC and NARP for continuing to say we want trains. Proposition 116 passed, gas taxes were increased, capital for intercity projects were provided; all these helped Metrolink, Caltrain, and the Coaster to start and expand. “Rail capital is a big issue. We designed and built our own new equipment.”
Mr. Bronte continued, saying while the “stars at the Federal level aren’t aligned yet,” we “anticipate markup of the Lautenberg/Lott bill which contains federal-state “sharing,” so we can use state dollars as matching. “We need support from the public to say what we need! We are rolling the wheels off our current equipment, so the challenge to those in this room is to talk up intercity rail to your legislators, and get them to appropriate the newly passed Proposition 1b funds designated for rail.”
Mr. Capon reviewed several pieces of federal legislation under consideration in Washington, and pointed out how he and NARP are working to secure passage in the Congress. HR1300 is the House version of the Senate’s S294, and it also calls for federal-state partnerships. “There is a real chance for Amtrak Reauthorization this year.” Funding for Amtrak remains tight, “(Speaker) Pelosi says there will be no new spending programs, and there is an impending bankruptcy of the Highway Trust Fund.” That possibility “is an opportunity” for the inclusion of rail in its renewal.
Attacks on the long distance trains continue, Mr. Capon said, and he called on Amtrak to “Run the system you have and run it well.” He reviewed NARP’s efforts to return the Sunset Limited to Florida. As for Bush budget cuts, including Amtrak by “38%,” cuts for transit projects are also proposed despite ridership growth. S294 is a bipartisan bill, so there is hope. An interesting proposal, PRIIA, calls for monitoring of the on time performance of Amtrak trains, giving “teeth to that idea, and also gives the railroads the opportunity to complain.” Mr. Capon went on to discuss the issue of climate change, showing Amtrak in 2003 used less energy per passenger mile than cars or airlines.