Posts Tagged ‘National Legislative Director Greg Hynes’

Senate bill benefits Amtrak, bus, transit members

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Senate today passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, its $1.2 trillion bipartisan legislation, by a 69-30 vote, sending the bill to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration and taking a step to end a substantial period of largely flat federal investment in the nation’s roads, rails and bridges.

The bill contains $786 billion to address a backlog of national infrastructure needs, $66 billion for Amtrak and $39 billion for public bus, transit and subway systems.

“This legislation marks the end of a long period of stagnation in the upper chamber of Congress when it comes to putting additional money into the nation’s infrastructure,” SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said. “There was a lot of talk of Infrastructure Week and the like in prior years, but nothing ever was accomplished with the bills dying in the Senate. Now we see a strong effort to protect bus and transit workers to shield them from assaults and a major influx of money that will allow Amtrak to provide expanded service and help its national passenger service to flourish. These are very encouraging signs and the bill’s passage is a major win for our Amtrak, bus and transit members.”

Absent from the Senate bill was a two-person freight crew provision that was passed through the U.S. House of Representatives’ infrastructure bill known as the INVEST in America Act (H.R. 3684). Yardmaster hours of service, also in the INVEST Act, suffered the same fate.

The 10 bipartisan senators who authored the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act did not include those items when writing the more than 2,700 pages of the legislation, and no amendment adding a 2PC provision was introduced by senators as the bill was considered for passage. Only bipartisan amendments were considered during the amendment process, and no Republican senators offered to co-sponsor the two-person-crew or yardmaster hours of service items as an amendment.

This does not close the door on national two-person crew bill efforts with House leaders, including Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairperson Peter DeFazio, Railroad Subcommittee Chair Donald Payne and other supporters of rail safety, working to find a vehicle to get a legislative solution passed. Regulatory efforts via the federal Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration will be intensified.

“We ask that members continue to be loud and clear about rail safety and the importance of a certified conductor and certified engineer being in the cab to elected officials via phone call, letter, and email and also by raising public awareness on social media,” Hynes said. “We have come further than we ever have in getting national two-person crew legislation accomplished this cycle. The battle is not over, and there is much more to be done.”

NLD Hynes: Contact Congress to have Rule of 2 included in Senate infrastructure bill

You’ve probably heard in the news over the past few days that the U.S. Senate has agreed on a new bipartisan infrastructure package. This article is to provide facts, highlight the ongoing differences between the House’s infrastructure bill and the Senate’s infrastructure bill, show where we stand and what can be done to step up as we fight for public and worker safety and for the Rule of 2 — a certified conductor and engineer in the cab of freight locomotives.

  1. The bipartisan infrastructure bill is a product of the Senate, where a bill needs a simple majority to pass — that means 51 votes. However, unless a bill has 60 senators in solid support, it is vulnerable to a filibuster by any who oppose the bill and thus cannot pass. This bipartisan bill has been a big deal in the news because something is being done about the nation’s infrastructure as some senators from both parties came up with a bill by working together after a long, long period of partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill. Let’s remember that this Senate bill has only been in existence since last Sunday, Aug. 1 — about three days — and things can change quickly.
  2. While the news of this Senate bill is good in some ways because of its increased funding for Amtrak and transit and protections of bus members, the bill lacks the two-person crew provision that appeared in the INVEST in America Act that we worked to get passed by the U.S. House in July.
  3. The House gets a chance to make additions, subtractions, and changes to anything the Senate passes in what is known as the conference process. Be assured that our allies in the House will fight to have portions of their bill reinstated that were left out of this Senate bill, but, as it was when we first passed two-person crew legislation out of the House in 2020, the divided Senate remains an obstacle. Already, we have come farther than we did last year, and this is thanks to involvement from our membership as well as how we improved conditions for success in November 2020.
  4. So the door is NOT CLOSED on a legislative solution from Congress coming through with this bill. A senator could amend the bill to add the two-person crew provision before a vote. The conference process also takes time, and we have strong allies in the U.S. House in Transportation Chairman Peter DeFazio and Rail Subcommittee Chairman Donald Payne who worked to get the 2PC provision in the INVEST Act both times it passed the House. But it’s not DeFazio, Payne or the U.S. representatives who already voted in favor of the INVEST Act’s two-person crew provisions that we need to convince. Republican senators who helped to craft the “bipartisan” Senate bill didn’t include the provision in accordance with the wishes of their railroad industry allies.

So what can you do to help?

We need to be loud and persistent. We need all of you to help. With the work being done right now in Washington D.C. on the legislative, and later this year, on the regulatory channel, now is the time to mobilize across the nation to step up and get the Rule of 2 across the finish line. Red state, blue state, purple state, north, south, east and west. We need to call. We need to email. Share the image above on social media. We need to explain to people in Congress, especially senators:

  • That public and worker safety is non-negotiable. That lives have been saved because of the presence and combined actions of a conductor and engineer working together. That the people in the freight locomotive provide the same safety functions and duties as a pilot and co-pilot on an airliner. By disregarding the 2PC provision, American lives are going to be endangered.
  • That the two-person crew component within the original INVEST in America Act MUST be included as the Senate considers this bill. Anything less ignores rail worker safety and community safety, jeopardizes jobs and lets the railroads and their profiteering Wall Street masters dictate what they say is safe rather than what we KNOW is safe.

We have resources such as the LAC set up to message people. There are grassroots networks such as the Fight for Two Person Crews group on social media who can provide collective strength. We need to stand up and not be silent waiting for other people to do the work as we embark upon both the legislative and the regulatory paths to make the Rule of 2 the law of the land.

Keep in mind that second path — the regulatory one — to secure the Rule of 2 is via the Federal Railroad Administration where the agency would promulgate a rule establishing a minimum crew size. Under President Biden, FRA has announced that a reopening of examining a rule concerning crew size would be a priority of the agency this autumn as it attempts to fill the regulatory vacuum that was created under the prior administration.

More about that will be shared as time goes on, but we are farther along the legislative path than we ever have been. We need to use our collective voices to get our message out to Congress.

Let’s continue to persist, step up, go forward and get the word out to Congress. Please get in touch with your senators and talk about the Rule of 2.

In solidarity,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greg Hynes
National Legislative Director — SMART-TD

The INVEST in America Act and how it protects TD members

A surface transportation reauthorization bill introduced June 4 by chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) has a wide-reaching positive impact for members of the SMART Transportation Division.

Mostly mirroring the identically named INVEST in America Act that passed the U.S. House of Representatives last summer but died in the Republican-held Senate, the 2021 version known as H.R. 3684 is a $547 billion five-year surface transportation bill with a two-person freight crew provision and encompasses other issues important to all TD members.

“Chairman DeFazio, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Rep. Donald Payne once again proved that they are receptive to the safety of and the needs of all SMART Transportation Division members,” SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson said. “Every one of our members has a stake in this bill and in the protections and actions this legislation puts forth. We are thankful for the representatives’ work, and we support this effort to move the transportation industry ahead.”

The bill directs federal investments in roads, bridges, transit, and rail, re-imagines national transportation policies and helps put President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan that invests in American workers and communities into motion.

“The benefits of transformative investments in our infrastructure are far-ranging: we can create and sustain good-paying jobs, many of which don’t require a college degree, restore our global competitiveness, tackle climate change head-on, and improve the lives of all Americans through modern infrastructure that emphasizes mobility and access, and spurs our country’s long-term economic growth,” DeFazio said.

Of particular importance to TD members are the portions of the INVEST in America Act that cover bus, transit and freight rail.

“This bill is all-encompassing — seeking redesigns of bus operator compartments so that drivers are more protected, protecting transit workers from assault and looking into school bus safety. The representatives also heard our voices regarding almost every one of the concerns we have about the current state of the railroad industry — crew size, train length, the utility of Positive Train Control and safety investigations — to name a few,” National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said. “Elections have consequences, and with this legislation, we now have an avenue where many matters that are important to us can be resolved.”

What follows is a recap of some of the provisions within the bill most important to SMART-TD members:

Amtrak

  • The bill triples funding for Amtrak to $32 billion, allowing for enhanced service, ADA upgrades, and investments to renew and support service on the Northeast Corridor and long-distance and state-supported routes.

Bus

  • Creates a Federal Transit Administration (FTA) training center modeled on the successful National Transit Institute, but with a frontline employee mandate to focus on training for new technologies, safety and emergency preparedness.
  • Expands FTA’s safety plan to include a focus on passenger and personnel injuries, assaults, and fatalities; a risk management process to address transit worker assaults; a joint labor/management safety committee empowered to approve the safety plan; and a comprehensive frontline workforce training program on safety and de-escalation.
  • Prevents a transit agency from deploying an automated vehicle that duplicates, eliminates, or reduces the frequency of existing public transportation service or a mobility on demand service. Transit agencies considering transit automated vehicles and mobility on demand service are required to develop a workforce development plan describing how the automated vehicle will affect transit workers. Ensures transit workers are given fair notice if their job is jeopardized by a transit automated vehicle or mobility on demand service.
  • Authorizes FTA research on redesigning bus driver compartments to improve driver visibility, expand driver functionality, and reduce driver assault.
  • Directs the Transportation secretary to review the costs and benefits of requiring lap/shoulder belts in large school buses and to consider requiring seat belts in newly manufactured school buses. Requires newly manufactured school buses to be equipped with automatic emergency braking and electronic stability control systems. Directs the secretary to conduct research and testing on fire prevention and mitigation standards—including firewalls, fire suppression systems, and interior flammability and smoke emissions characteristics—for large school buses and consider issuing updated standards.

Freight rail

  • Requires the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) rescind any special permit or approval for the transport of liquified natural gas (LNG) by rail tank car issued before the date of enactment. Also prohibits DOT regulations on the transport of LNG by rail tank car from taking effect until DOT conducts a further safety evaluation. Directs the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to initiate an evaluation of the safety, security, and environmental risks of transporting LNG by rail.
  • Improves rail safety by addressing highway-rail grade crossing needs.
  • Requires a study on the effects of long trains.
  • Requires FRA to increase its roster of rail safety inspectors by 20 percent.
  • Requires FRA to collect data on train length and crew size when an accident occurs.
  • Requires the creation of a standardized FRA safety investigation process.
  • Requires FRA to engage in a public process before granting waivers from, or suspensions of, railroad safety standards and regulations.
  • Creates a federal blocked crossing program to collect data and enforce a 10-minute blocked crossing limit.
  • Has a two-person crew freight train mandate that, like the 2020 bill, has some exemptions for short lines and train length. These are:
    • The train operations are not on a main line.
    • The train does not exceed a maximum speed of 25 mph on territory with an average track grade of less than 2% for any segment of track that is at least two continuous miles.
    • The locomotives are performing assistance to a train that has incurred mechanical failure or lacks the power to traverse difficult terrain, including to or from the location where assistance is provided.
    • The locomotives are not attached to any equipment (except a caboose) and do not travel further than 30 miles from a rail yard.
    • A location where one-person operations were being utilized one year prior to the date of enactment of this bill, only if the DOT Secretary determines that the operation achieves an equivalent level of safety.

    Short-line exception
    In addition to the above, a train may be operated with a reduced crew, if the carrier has fewer than 400,000 total employee work hours annually and an annual revenue of less than $20,000,000.

    A train must be operated by a two-person crew (no exception), if:

    • It is transporting one or more loaded cares carrying material toxic by inhalation.
    • It is carrying 20 or more loaded tank cars of a Class 2 material or a Class 3 flammable liquid in a continuous block.
    • It has 35 or more loaded tank cars of a Class 2 material or a Class 3 flammable liquid throughout its consist.
    • It is 7,500 feet in length or longer.
  • Has a cross-border provision for the southern border of the U.S.
  • Makes yardmaster employees subject to FRA’s hours of service protections.
  • Directs the FRA to take such actions as are necessary to ensure that certain older air brake control valves are phased out on rail cars operating in cold regions of the United States, an issue brought to light by SMART-TD leadership in 2019.
  • Directs the DOT to require railroad carriers to regularly report on failures of positive train control (PTC) systems.
  • Directs the Secretary of Transportation to issue a final rule on fatigue management plans within one year.

Transit

  • Establishes a working group to improve the musculoskeletal health of transit and commercial vehicle drivers by developing stronger ergonomic seating standards in transit and commercial vehicles. Requires the working group to compare design standards for women to those for men.
  • Provides funding for corridor planning and development of high-speed rail projects, reducing traffic congestion and shortening travel times.
  • Requires passenger and commuter railroad carriers to implement response plans and employee training in order to address assaults against both passengers and employees. The section also requires railroads to report annual assault data to FRA.

The bill is scheduled to be marked up by the U.S. House on June 9.

Read a section-by-section summary of the 2021 INVEST in America Act. (PDF)
Read the bill. (PDF)
Read a fact sheet about the bill. (PDF)

SMART-TD Leaders Pledge Support to 2021 INVEST in America Act

CLEVELAND, Ohio (June 4, 2021) – Leaders of the SMART Transportation Division today announced their full support of the 2021 version of the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act.

DeFazio

The transformational $547 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill introduced today by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio of Oregon contains critical safety reforms for the bus, transit and freight rail industries. Similar to a 2020 version of the bill, provisions of the legislation mandate two-person freight rail crews and take steps to address the problems of bus operator and transit worker assault as well as other issues faced by SMART-TD’s bus, rail and transit members.

“Chairman DeFazio, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Rep. Donald Payne once again proved that they are receptive to the safety of and the needs of all SMART Transportation Division members,” SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson said. “Every one of our members has a stake in this bill and in the protections and actions this legislation puts forth. We are thankful for the representatives’ work, and we support this effort to move the transportation industry ahead.”

“This bill is all-encompassing — seeking redesigns of bus operator compartments so that drivers are more protected, protecting transit workers from assault and looking into school bus safety. The representatives also heard our voices regarding almost every one of the concerns we have about the current state of the railroad industry — crew size, train length, the utility of Positive Train Control and safety investigations — to name a few,” National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said. “Elections have consequences, and with this legislation, we now have an avenue where many matters that are important to us can be resolved.”

A markup of the bill is scheduled to take place June 9.

The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of crafts in the transportation industry.

NLD Hynes appears on the Rick Smith Show

National Legislative Director Gregory Hynes was a guest on the labor-oriented Rick Smith Show on Feb. 24 where he discussed the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling earlier this week that threw out the Federal Railroad Administration’s negative preemption claim which would have nullified our two person state laws.

In addition to talking about the two-person crew ruling that reinstated state laws governing crew size, Hynes also discussed the history of railroads using technology not to improve operations but instead to eliminate jobs to increase profits and the need for Amtrak safety to be tightened in the wake of January’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Listen to the podcast here.

 

 

H.R. 2 passes U.S. House and moves to Senate

H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, a massive $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill that contains provisions important to members of all crafts in the SMART Transportation Division and to sheet metal workers, passed through the U.S. House of Representatives by a 233-188 vote on July 1.

A major component of this bill is the INVEST in America Act that passed the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in late June.

H.R. 2 contains:

  • a two-person freight crew requirement
  • bus and transit operator safety measures
  • blocked-rail-crossing enforcement
  • a cross-border solution
  • yardmaster hours of service
  • additional funding for Amtrak
  • requirements for carriers to meet CDC guidelines and to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to transportation workers

“This is an unprecedented step ahead for many of our union’s major issues through the legislative process,” SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson said. “Our concerns were heard and addressed by the writers of this bill — safety for workers and communities alike in the bus and transit operator safety measures and in the crew-size provision, funding for Amtrak, and a number of other provisions intended to rebuild and transform the nation’s roads and rails.

“Federal agencies and big-pocketed lobbyists have tried to obstruct the essential protections that this bill provides to our members and to the people who work on, live near and use our nation’s transportation network. These representatives all had the foresight and initiative to move them forward.”

Ian Jefferies, CEO of the Association of American Railroads (AAR), earlier in the week had an op-ed published that was highly critical of the legislation, targeting the two-person crew portion and one that dealt with study of potential rail transport of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) specifically, saying the bill “woefully missed the mark.”

In the column, Jefferies also argued that legislators were “putting their collective thumbs on the scale” regarding railroad safety in regulating the crew-size safety issue.

The INVEST in America component of the Moving Forward Act was shepherded by House T&I Chairperson Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, through the committee June 18. He commented on July 1 after the bill’s passage:

“Passage of this bold, forward-thinking infrastructure bill is proof that finally, there is a majority of us in Congress who won’t accept the status quo and instead are willing to fight for a new vision that invests in our communities, addresses the climate crisis, and creates better opportunities for all. And we get there by putting millions of people to work in jobs that cannot be exported, while harnessing American-made materials, ingenuity, and innovation,” he said. “With the Moving Forward Act, we make it clear that our infrastructure does not have to be a product of the past, with crumbling roads and bridges, unreliable transit and rail networks, inequitable outcomes, and little regard to our changing climate and our changing economy. I challenge my Senate colleagues to join the House in thinking big and being bold on long-overdue investments not only in our infrastructure, but also in the communities and the people we all represent.”

Leaders in the SMART-TD National Legislative Department thanked DeFazio and the bipartisan group of Democrats and a trio of Republicans who supported H.R. 2.

“As if we need any additional evidence that elections matter, this result shows that the 2018 change of party control in the House made a difference,” National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said. “We appreciate those legislators who supported this legislation in its journey through the House. There is more work to be done and a path to be cleared for this legislation, and our membership is more than willing to put in the time to make legislators understand why the bill provisions are necessary.”

The Moving Forward Act now moves to the United States Senate, where, according to Politico.com, Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, called the bill “nonsense,” “absurd,” “pure fantasy” and vowed that it will die before getting to the White House, where the president has threatened to veto the bill.

TD leaders meet with DeFazio about carriers’ and agencies’ lax COVID-19 response

WASHINGTON, D.C. – SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson and National Legislative Director Gregory Hynes met with U.S. Rep. and Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) earlier this week, alerting him to carriers’ inadequate efforts to protect essential transportation workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

DeFazio

President Ferguson told the chairman about field reports from SMART-TD members that some bus, transit carriers and freight railroads are failing to provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as CDC-approved cleaning supplies and cleaning protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Federal agencies also have not taken substantial regulatory action to protect our members who are deemed essential workers through this national emergency, they told DeFazio.

Ferguson made particular note to the chairman about the freight rail industry, where the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) activated an emergency docket pushed by Class I carriers and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) that cuts corners on inspections and safety measures in reaction to the pandemic.

Ferguson informed DeFazio that these measures are intended to be enacted in the event there is a workforce shortage caused directly by COVID-19. However, worker furloughs are “at the highest level ever,” and none of those emergency provisions should take effect until all furloughed workers are activated, our leadership said.

Chairman DeFazio was “attentive to our requests and is acutely aware of transportation workers’ needs” through the pandemic, NLD Hynes said.

“He’s fully aware of the shortcomings of the carriers’ and federal agencies’, especially FRA’s and FTA’s failed response to our COVID-19 requests for action through our Emergency Order petition,” Hynes said.

Representatives’ letter supports SMART-TD petition for COVID-19 safety measures

A bipartisan group of 14 members of Congress — seven Democrats and seven Republicans — pledged support to SMART Transportation Division’s petitions to the administrators of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) seeking protection for railroad and transit workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our transit and rail workers are essential to the health, safety, security and transport of people within and between our communities along with the transport of critical goods and freight across the country,” the legislators wrote. “It is important that steps are taken to mitigate against the spread of the virus within the workforce, minimize exposure while workers are performing their duties, and ensure sufficient staffing.”

U.S. Reps Greg Stanton, a Democrat from Arizona, and Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Pennsylvania, were the lead signatories.

“As you work to identify additional measures to protect these essential transportation workers, we ask that you consider and give full and fair consideration to the recommendations SMART-TD outlined in its petitions for worker protections and sanitation standards to protect against the virus,” the representatives wrote.

The members of Congress who signed the letter also included U.S. Reps Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.); David B. McKinley (R-W.Va.); Grace F. Napolitano (D-Calif.); Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.); Sharice L. Davids (D-Kan.); Rodney Davis (R.-Ill.); Jesus G. “Chuy” Garcia (D-Ill.); Fred Upton (R-Mich.); John Garamendi (D-Calif.); Mike Bost (R-Ill.); Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.); and Don Bacon (R-Neb.).

On March 20, SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson called on FRA Administrator Ron Batory and FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams to make the carriers regulated by their agency implement sanitation and preventive measures in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

Neither agency has responded to the joint request by SMART-TD and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) to FRA or SMART-TD’s request to FTA. FRA did grant safety waivers to Class I carriers on March 25.

“These members of Congress recognize that SMART-TD members and others in transportation labor continue to fill an essential role as the United States copes with the coronavirus pandemic,” SMART-TD National Legislative Director Gregory Hynes said. “Their continued support is appreciated where others seem not to be interested in protecting these essential workers.”

Read the letter here. (PDF)

National Legislative Director Hynes speaks out in Trains Magazine about railroad issues

SMART-TD National Legislative Director Greg Hynes

In an interview to appear in the April edition of Trains Magazine, SMART-TD National Legislative Director Greg Hynes was interviewed about key issues and industry trends including Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR), two-person crews, autonomous trains and the effect presidential elections have on the railroad industry.

In the interview, Hynes spoke about how PSR is a threat to jobs, the industry and the public because fewer safety inspections are being performed with fewer people and that there is a blatant disregard by Class I management toward fatigued and ill individuals who aren’t being allowed time off.

When asked if autonomous train technology could come to the U.S., Hynes responded:

“Where they have the autonomous trains out in Australia is on a route that doesn’t have any grade crossings, there are no people nearby, and it’s basically out in the middle of nowhere. But if you try to do that in the United States, where you have thousands and thousands of grade crossings, it will be a really bad thing. The people on a train are the first responders in every crossing incident. You won’t have that with an autonomous train.”

Trains closed the interview asking how the 2020 presidential election will impact railroads and unions. Hynes noted that whoever is in the White House determines who runs the FRA.

“If we see a continuation of what we have right now, it will not be good for rail safety or labor. This current administration has not been friendly to labor at all. Rail safety is not their primary function anymore, as we saw in their decision to not implement a national crew-size rule. How is that in the best interest of safety? It’s all about protecting the railroads’ bottom line, but that’s not the FRA’s job.”

To read the full interview, check out the April print issue of Trains Magazine.

Trump budget proposal cuts Amtrak, FRA and shorts RRB

If approved as-is, a federal budget proposal for the 2021 fiscal year released Monday, Feb. 10, by President Donald Trump would reduce funding for Amtrak, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and underfund the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB).

Amtrak, the national passenger rail carrier, would see a 50 percent reduction in funding from the 2020 budget, with long-distance routes again in jeopardy of losing federal funding.

“Despite Amtrak’s success and the critical service it offers to so many, President Trump’s budget would slash funding for Amtrak by more than half,” the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD), of which SMART-TD is a member, said on Twitter. “These proposed cuts would apply to the Northeast Corridor, the busiest rail corridor in the country, and Amtrak’s broader national network, which serves low population areas.”

The low-population areas would include Kansas, Montana, Wyoming, and Arizona and, according to the administration, “would be better served by other modes of transportation like — wait for it — intercity buses,” TTD tweeted.

Amtrak has been a frequent target of the administration, with Trump seeking to cut funding for the national rail carrier every year he has been in office. The future of long-distance routes such as the Southwest Chief was jeopardized in 2018, and it took an outcry by legislators in both houses of Congress to preserve the routes through the 2019 fiscal year while the FAST Act, which expires this autumn, preserved it in fiscal year 2020.

The FRA, which has received about $3 billion in the past two Trump-era budgets, is targeted for nearly $1 billion in reductions.

In contrast, funding for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) would increase by $300 million to $13.2 billion.

Finally, the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) would be underfunded if Trump’s proposed budget goes through, board sources say.

The RRB requests $141,974,000 for administrative costs and $13,850,000 to help fund its IT upgrade efforts for a total of $155,824,000. The request will support 880 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff.

However, the president’s budget requests $114,500,000 for administrative and $5,725,000 for IT for a total of $120,225,000. The President’s budget would only support 672 FTE, which is 208 less than the agency’s request level and 119 less than the current level of 791 FTE.

The agency’s budget through the Trump administration’s term has remained flat at $113.5 million annually with an additional $10 million provided each year to help RRB’s efforts to modernize its IT infrastructure. Trump proposes to allocate $120.225 million to the agency in the next fiscal year.

“RRB needs a minimum of 880 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff to sustain mission critical operations. Stagnant administrative budgets coupled with cost-of-living salary increases for Federal employees have resulted in severe understaffing,” a message from RRB’s Office of the Labor Member said. “The impact of this understaffing is being felt in the agency’s customer service and its ability to accomplish mission critical goals.”

It stands to note that presidential budget proposals typically serve as a starting point for Congress as its members begin the task of setting the fiscal course for the country in an election year and rarely, if ever, are approved without alterations.

“The good news about the president’s budget would be that it will most assuredly be dead on arrival in the U.S. House,” SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director Gregory Hynes said.

However, the proposed budget does serve as an indicator of where the administration’s budgetary priorities are.

Rally Sunday in Iowa in support of Safe Freight Act

Legislative Representative Jordan Boone of Local 445 (Niota, Ill.) reports that National Legislative Director Greg Hynes will be speaking Sunday at a rally in support of the Safe Freight Act (H.R. 1748/S.1979) national two-person crew legislation.

The rally is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. local time at the Keokuk Labor Temple at 301 Blondeau St. in Keokuk, IA 52636. Members from the region are invited to attend to show their support for the legislation.

Representatives of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen also are expected to be in attendance to speak as are politicians including Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Iowa. Rep. Jeff Kurtz and Iowa House candidate Emiliano Vera.

Sanders is expected to publicly endorse S.1979 during an event at the Keokuk school complex, 2001 Orleans Ave., Keokuk, 52636, to take place at 12:30 p.m. local time.

H.R. 1748 currently has 133 co-sponsors while the Senate version of the bill has 15.