MICHIGAN ASSOCIATION OF RAILROAD PASSENGERS
EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEETING
MILLETT DEPOT, LANSING
APRIL 16, 2011
Present: Robert Tischbein, Jim Hinkins, Hugh Gurney, Kay Chase, John Langdon, Jim Wallington, Dave Randall
Excused: Kathleen Newell
Call to Order: Chairman Tischbein called the meeting to order at 10:05 a.m.
Treasurer’s Report: Treasurer Randall reported that, as of March 31, 2011, the balance in the MARP checking account stood at $10,984.88 and the Pratt Fund was valued at $16, 024.40. As requested, Randall has transferred $500.00 from the checking account to the Pratt Fund and has issued a check for one grant. A little research indicates that the donor from Lebanon, NH, made similar donations to other rail groups she considered active including NARP. DeLora moved acceptance of the Treasurer’s Report. This was seconded by Langdon and approved by those present.
Randall reported that he will not be moving to Texas.
Government/Public Affairs: Langdon reported that he was becoming more involved the Trans4Michigan as has Chase. The organization now has an operating web site. He and Tim Fischer of MEC have been holding “Meet and Greet” sessions with 121 Michigan legislators, briefing them on how Amtrak fits into the transportation network.
As of January 2, 2011, MDOT had applied for funding for the West Detroit Junction, upgrading of the Kalamazoo-Dearborn line, renovation of the Battle Creek station and new transportation centers in Birmingham/Troy and Dearborn. Many projects have not yet been obligated, including the Englewood Flyover in Chicago and the Indiana Gateway. The transportation center at Birmingham/Troy is up in the air.
DeLora added that, as of Friday, April 15, all High Speed Rail funding had been eliminated for FY 2011, as well as grants to AAR. Amtrak’s budget has been cut by 2%.
Because the deadline with the developer had expired before all funding was in place, the Birmingham/Troy project is now in court. In such cases, courts tend to favor the government, which is always slow getting its funding in place.
Fiscal Year 2012 promises to be very tough, DeLora continued. New Tea Party representatives are very hostile to Amtrak, which consumes 17 minutes of federal spending. Amtrak is now covering 80% of its expenses, an excellent ratio compared to other transportation options. The Blue Water is now meeting 90% of its expenses.
States including Michigan have applied for a share of the $2.4 billion left on the table when Florida turned back its High Speed Rail grant.
Langdon attended the Michigan Rail Association meeting. They are supporting the governor’s position on rail. Unfortunately, his budget for transit has been cut in both the House and the Senate, including $15 million for new buses. It is not clear how this impacts intercity buses. Langdon suggests working with Trans4Michigan and the Lets’s Get Moving Coalition to have this funding restored.
DeLora noted that governor Snyder supports High Speed Rail as long as it can be done with federal funding. By renegotiating bonds, additional money may be available for transit.
The Midwest High Speed Rail Association has come out in support of a network of true highs speed routes connecting Chicago with St. Louis, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Detroit. The Cleveland/Detroit route would cross Indiana to Fort Wayne, where one line would branch off for Detroit and another would continue to Cleveland. This is the routing recommended by the French group which studied alignments.
In response to a question from Vavra-Musser about strategy, DeLora suggested pointing to ridership. We can point out that privatization is not always the answer, as indicated by the Illinois Tollway system, which has gone broke under private management.
The bill that would permit rail projects to be covered under state bonding has been reintroduced and is now in committee.
Communications: Chase handed out samples of an e-mail newsletter she is working on. Hard copies could be printed for outreach events. Vavra-Musser expressed support, stating that people like something concise. Unfortunately, it will miss about 1/3 of our members, who do not have e-mail.
Steve Sobel, who was present as an observer, reported that Valderas still had three or four pages of The Michigan Passenger to complete and was staying home today to work on it. Vavra-Musser noted that our membership brochure says members will receive quarterly newsletters.
At Wallington’s suggestion, Chairman Tischbein said he would appoint a subcommittee including Wallington to review the status of our newsletter and website.
The Executive Committee adjourned at 11:05 a.m.
Respectfully submitted: Accepted:
Hugh D. Gurney Robert Tischbein