RAILROAD ACCESS

WHEREAS, when Amtrak was created through the Rail Passenger Service Act in 1971, it was granted guaranteed access to the freight railroad network to operate intercity rail; and

WHEREAS, the purpose of this guaranteed access for Amtrak was to maintain the dual use of the country's railroad network for both freight and passenger rail services; and

WHEREAS, although Amtrak still must negotiate with the private freight railroads on access-related issues, it has the ability to utilize the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) to resolve these issues should an impasse be reached in its negotiations with the private freight railroads; and

WHEREAS, at that time, Congress did not anticipate the need for other public transit providers to access freight rail corridors to operate commuter rail service or to extend their light rail systems; and

WHEREAS, many public transit providers throughout the country are experiencing difficulties in negotiating the necessary agreements with the private freight railroads to access these corridors for passenger rail purposes, causing delays to completing passenger rail expansion projects and implementing new public transit services; and

WHEREAS, public transit providers currently do not have any leverage in their negotiations with the private freight railroads over access-related issues; and

WHEREAS, of the more than 200 New Starts projects authorized for funding in the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), approximately half contemplate utilizing excess capacity in existing freight corridors; and

WHEREAS, organizations representing public transit interests have been attempting, with little success, to dialogue with the trade association representing the private freight railroads to establish a dispute resolution process within the STB for railroad access issues, and to develop mechanisms to motivate the private freight railroads to come to the table to negotiate in good faith on these issues; and

WHEREAS, for the past two years, legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would allow public transit operators to take disputes over rights-of-way and other operating issues with the private freight railroads to the STB for resolution; and

WHEREAS, providing commuter rail, light rail and other passenger rail operators with the same guaranteed access rights to the freight railroad network as Amtrak would: (a) provide them with much-needed leverage in their negotiations with the private freight railroads; (b) provide them with a mechanism to resolve issues in those situation in which an impasse is reached; and (c) prevent delays to passenger rail projects and services resulting from prolonged negotiations,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that The U.S. Conference of Mayors, either through the reauthorization of TEA-21 or through separate legislation, supports granting to commuter rail, light rail and other public transit operators the same guaranteed access to the freight railroad network as Amtrak; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Conference supports establishing a mechanism within the STB or some other appropriate federal entity to resolve disputes between public transit operators and the private freight railroads on freight railroad access issues.