December 1969 USDOT “RailPax” Passenger Rail Proposal

December 1969 USDOT “RailPax” Passenger Rail Proposal

January 13, 2020  | Jeff Davis

This is the text of the draft legislation sent by the U.S. Department of Transportation in December 1969 to the White House Bureau of the Budget for legislative clearance (the process by which BoB, now OMB, vets legislative proposals from agencies to determine if they can be submitted to Congress or not).

The legislation in question was a draft “Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970” (together with summary and analysis), called “RailPax” informally. Legislation along these lines had already been proposed in the Senate and had been subject to hearings in September 1969.

The process eventually led to the enactment of Public Law 91-518 under the RPSA name in October 1970, a.k.a. the creation of Amtrak.

This document contains:

  • A cover letter from Charles Baker, Deputy Under Secretary of Transportation, to Budget Director Robert Mayo (dated December 23, 1969)
  • A draft bill dated December 18, 1969
  • An undated section-by-section summary of the bill
  • A 49-page report prepared by USDOT entitled “The Place of Rail Passenger Service in the National Transportation System” which analyzed modal trends in passenger transportation, policy goals and issues, political problems, a review of bills already introduced in Congress, critiques of alternate policy approaches, and a summary of recommendations.

Documents located in box 35 of Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s papers in the Nixon Library.

It is important to note that the Budget Bureau never cleared the RailPax proposal for transmission to Congress. As shown in the letter below, Transportation Secretary Volpe and Budget Director Mayo discussed it in mid-January 1970 but objection within the Administration was broader than Volpe let on to Mayo, and Mayo had not cleared it by mid-February. A later discussion in the enrolled bill file for the RPSA prepared for President Nixon to help him decide whether or not to sign the bill into law reveals that RailPax never got clearance and instead Secretary Volpe publicly endorsed Senator Magnuson’s bill (without BoB clearance) in May 1970 after it had been brought in line with the original DOT proposal.

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