The Don Phillips column appearing in February TRAINS, certainly gives insight into 'the ways of Washington'. Mr. Phillips suggests that President Bush could have cared less one way or the other about enhancing railroad safety, let alone any additional authorizations (as distinct from appropriations) for Amtrak. But Mr. Bush wanted a treaty entered into with India regarding the proliferation of nuclear weapons - and in order for that treaty to be ratified by the President, it needed "advice and consent' by the US Senate.
According to Mr. Phillips, Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) addressed through intermediaries the President that a major passenger train incident with fatalities had occurred at Chatsworth CA and that he wanted enacted legislation to enhance rail safety (RSIIA'08) principally and immediately modifying existing Hours of Service provisions (this guest author, who often is confronted with insomnia, is 100% in favor of any such modifications). The President wanted his treaty, and what happened next, treaty consented, RSIIA (into which PRIIA had been conveniently 'attached' as Division II) enacted, is as old as Washington itself.
Now since Ellis' blog mainly addresses passenger train affairs, I must wonder to what extent President Bush was even aware that he was enhancing Amtrak's and its advocates's interests when signing RSIIA. While Mr, Bush, save a little "bluster' manifested by an '05 initiative (often called in railfan circles "the Mineta Dog and Pony Show"), never really did anything TO Amtrak, he certainly never did anything FOR Amtrak. It was simply a non-issue during his Presidency.
So there it is, Bush got his treaty, Amtrak got some of the most positive legislative backing it has ever enjoyed, and maybe just maybe some railroad workers will report for duty feeling a bit more 'fit for duty'.
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