Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Reported to House amended (09/17/1997)

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Title I: Procurement Reforms

Title II: Operational Reforms

Title III: Collective Bargaining Reforms

Title IV: Use of Railroad Facilities

Title V: Financial Reforms

Title VI: Miscellaneous

Title VII: Authorization of Appropriations

Amtrak Reform and Privatization Act of 1997 - Title I: Procurement Reforms - Amends Federal transportation law to revise provisions regarding the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) to urge Amtrak to use other rail carriers for performing work whenever it contracts out work normally performed by an employee of a bargaining unit covered by a contract between it and a labor organization. (Currently, Amtrak may not contract out such work if it results in the layoff of a bargaining unit employee.) Prohibits Amtrak from entering into a contract for the operation of trains with any entity other than a State or State authority.

(Sec. 102) Prohibits Amtrak from submitting a bid for the performance of services under a contract for an amount less than the cost to it of performing such services (below-cost competition) with respect to any activity, except the provision of intercity rail passenger transportation, commuter rail passenger transportation, or mail or express transportation. Authorizes an aggrieved individual to commence a civil action in a U.S. district court for violations of such prohibition.

Repeals general Amtrak authority to maintain and rehabilitate rail passenger equipment, and the mandate to maintain a regional maintenance plan including specified components.

Authorizes Amtrak, with a specified exception, to enter into a contract with a motor carrier of passengers for the intercity transportation over regular routes only if certain requirements are met.

(Sec. 104) Directs Amtrak to establish an outreach program to increase the likelihood of U.S. track work manufacturers to be able to meet Amtrak's specifications for track work. Requires Amtrak to report annually to the Congress on progress made with such program, including a statement of the percentage of Amtrak's track work contracts awarded to U.S. manufacturers.

Title II: Operational Reforms - Repeals Amtrak's mandate: (1) to provide intercity rail passenger transportation within the basic system (unless such transportation is provided by specified others); and (2) to continue to carry out a specified plan to improve such transportation.

(Sec. 201) Requires Amtrak to give 180 days' notice (currently, 90 days) of its intention to discontinue rail service over a route to States, regional or local authorities, or other persons so that they will have an opportunity to agree to share or assume the cost of any part of the train, route, or service to be discontinued.

Repeals Amtrak's mandates for: (1) cost and performance reviews of Amtrak routes in the basic system; and (2) provision of special commuter transportation.

(Sec. 202) Repeals specified provisions regarding: (1) Amtrak's mandate to increase mail and express transportation revenues, and its authority to provide auto-ferry transportation; (2) route and service criteria with respect to route discontinuances and route additions; (3) additional qualifying routes; (4) certain requests to Amtrak by State, regional, or local authorities or other persons to provide rail passenger transportation or keep a train, route, or service that Amtrak intends to discontinue; and (5) authority for the Amtrak Commuter (thus abolishing it as an Amtrak subsidiary).

Declares that State and local laws that impair the provision of mail, express, and auto-ferry transportation shall not apply to Amtrak or a rail carrier providing such services.

(Sec. 206) Exempts from paying a tax or fee to the same extent that Amtrak is so exempt any commuter authority eligible to contract with Amtrak Commuter to provide commuter rail passenger transportation but which decided to provide its own beginning January 1, 1983.

(Sec. 207) Repeals the requirement that rail freight and commuter rail passenger transportation over certain acquired property be provided under compensatory agreements with the responsible carriers.

Requires Amtrak and other commuter rail carriers to an agreement for the provision of rail freight or commuter rail passenger transportation over certain rights-of-way and facilities on the Northeast Corridor to submit any disputes over terms of such agreement to binding arbitration.

Encourages Amtrak to make agreements with the private sector and undertake initiatives that promote the potential privatization of its operations.

(Sec. 208) Authorizes the Comptroller General to conduct financial audits of Amtrak activities. Declares that a State shall have access to Amtrak's records, accounts, and other necessary documents used to determine the amount of any State payment to Amtrak.

Title III: Collective Bargaining Reforms - Deems to be served and effective 90 days after enactment of this Act any required notices with respect to all issues relating to: (1) Amtrak employee protective arrangements and severance benefits (including all provisions of Appendix C-2 to the National Railroad Passenger Corporation Agreement, signed July 5, 1973); and (2) contracting out by Amtrak of work normally performed by an employee in a bargaining unit covered by a contract between Amtrak and a labor organization representing the employees.

(Sec. 301) Requires the National Mediation Board to complete all efforts with respect to such issues within 180 days after enactment of this Act. Authorizes parties to agree to submit such disputes to arbitration, making any resulting award retroactive to 180 days after enactment of this Act.

(Sec. 302) Repeals certain requirements for fair and equitable employee protective arrangements in the event of a discontinuance of intercity rail passenger service.

Extinguishes any provision of a contract between Amtrak and a labor organization relating to: (1) Amtrak employee protective arrangements and severance benefits (including all provisions of Appendix C-2 to the National Railroad Passenger Corporation Agreement, signed July 5, 1973); and (2) contracting out by Amtrak of work normally performed by an employee in a bargaining unit covered by a contract between Amtrak and a labor organization representing the employees.

Amends the Northeast Rail Service Act of 1981 to authorize Conrail to furlough one train or engine service employee for each such employee who moves from Amtrak to Conrail in excess of the cumulative number of such employees who move from Conrail to Amtrak.

Title IV: Use of Railroad Facilities - Limits to $250,000, or three times the amount of economic damages, the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded in a claim for personal injury, death, or damage to property in connection with the provision of rail passenger transportation. Limits noneconomic damages to $250,000 in excess of a claimant's economic loss.

Title V: Financial Reforms - Urges Amtrak, in issuing stock, to include employee stock ownership plans.

(Sec. 501) Requires Amtrak to redeem all previously issued common stock at the fair market value.

Declares that Amtrak preferred stock held by the Secretary of Transportation shall confer no liquidation preference or voting rights.

Repeals the Secretary's authority to obtain notes and mortgages from Amtrak in order to secure expenditures to acquire and improve designated Conrail rail property, and establish a Government mortgage lien on it, under the final system plan pursuant to the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973. Relinquishes all U.S. rights in any such notes or mortgages entered into with Amtrak dated October 5, 1983.

(Sec. 502) Repeals current requirements governing Federal payments to Amtrak and provides, instead, that appropriated Federal operating assistance funds shall be provided to Amtrak upon appropriation when requested by Amtrak.

(Sec. 503) Replaces the Board of Directors of Amtrak with the Emergency Reform Board.

Grants the Board authority to recommend to the Congress a plan to implement the recommendations of the 1997 Working Group on Inter-City Rail regarding the transfer of Amtrak's infrastructure assets and responsibilities to a new separately governed corporation.

(Sec. 506) Exempts Amtrak (and Amtrak subsidiary) passengers and customers from any fee, head charge, or other charge imposed by a State or local taxing authority directly or indirectly on any persons traveling in intercity rail passenger transportation or mail or express transportation provided by Amtrak or a rail carrier subsidiary of Amtrak, or on the carriage of such persons, mail, or express, or on the sale of any such transportation, or on the gross receipts derived from such activities.

Title VI: Miscellaneous - Establishes a Temporary Rail Advisory Council to: (1) evaluate Amtrak's performance; and (2) suggest strategies for further cost containment and productivity improvements, including strategies for further reduction in Federal operating subsidies and eventual privatization of Amtrak operations.

(Sec. 604) Extends from October 15, 1996, to October 15, 2000, the deadline for retrofitting of certain intercity rail passenger cars with human waste disposal systems that provide for waste discharge at a servicing facility only.

(Sec. 605) Repeals the authority or mandate for: (1) assistance for upgrading rail facilities that pose a hazard; (2) the rail safety system program; (3) a plan for demonstrating new technology in rail passenger equipment; and (4) a program master plan for a Boston-New York main line.

(Sec. 609) Requires Amtrak to construct an electrification system between Boston, Massachusetts, and New Haven, Connecticut, to accommodate the installation of a third mainline track between Davisville and Central Falls, Rhode Island, to be used for double-stack freight service to and from the Port of Davisville.

(Sec. 610) Declares that Amtrak, and facilities it jointly uses with a commuter authority, shall not be subject to certain requirements under the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 until January 1, 1998.

(Sec. 612) Amends the Northeast Rail Service Act of 1981 to repeal the mandate for determination of a costing methodology with respect to certain Northeast Corridor cost disputes.

(Sec. 614) Amends the Conrail Privatization Act to repeal a specified provision regarding composition of the Board of Directors of the Consolidated Rail Corporation.

(Sec. 615) Grants congressional consent to States with an interest in a specific form, route, or corridor of intercity passenger rail service, including high speed rail service, to enter into interstate compacts to promote such service.

(Sec. 617) Directs the Secretary of Transportation to transfer title to certain magnetic levitation tract materials at the Transportation Technology Center near Pueblo, Colorado, to the State of Florida.

(Sec. 618) Amends the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 to declare that it is the purpose of the Congress to promote the revitalization of the railway system through, among other things, preservation of light density lines.

Revises interest rate, repayment, and prepayment penalty requirements with respect to guaranteed railroad improvement loans.

Title VII: Authorization of Appropriations - Amends Federal transportation law to authorize appropriations for Amtrak for: (1) capital expenditures, operating expenses, and certain additional amounts for FY 1995 through FY 2000; and (2) guarantee of obligations to improve railroad facilities or equipment for FY 1998 through FY 2000. Reduces the authorizations for capital expenditures and certain additional amounts for any fiscal year by any amount made available to Amtrak from an intercity passenger transportation trust fund for that fiscal year.

(Sec. 701) Amends the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 to prohibit the Secretary from requiring, as a condition for guarantee of an obligation, that all preexisting secured obligations of an obligor be subordinated to the Secretary's rights in the event of a default.