amtrak locomotive; amtrak car; amtrakWASHINGTON — Congress, unable to agree on very much lately, has agreed on funding for Amtrak, bus transportation, commercial aviation and transit through Sept. 30, 2012.

The funding is for fiscal year 2012, which began Oct. 1. Earlier, Congress agreed to legislation extending FY 2011 funding until final agreement on FY 2012 funding could be reached.


For FY 2012, Amtrak will receive $1.42 billion, or $64 million less than Amtrak received in FY  2011. The 1.42 billion includes $466 million for operations — 17 percent below operating assistance provided Amtrak for the previous fiscal year. The remainder, or $952 million, is for capital improvements and debt service — 3 percent above what was provided for capital improvements and debt service in FY 2011.

In a victory for Amtrak, Congress agreed to scrap an earlier House effort to eliminate the use of federal dollars for 26 state-supported Amtrak routes, which help fund some 150 regional passenger trains serving nine million passengers annually.

However, Congress chose to zero-out new funding for higher-speed rail. President Obama had proposed $3.6 billion for higher-speed rail for FY 2012 (and $53 billion over six years), and the Senate had proposed $100 million for FY 2012. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), a member of the House Rail Subcommittee, said of the funding cut:

“I truly believe that it is the best we are going to do in this current economic climate. High-speed rail should be an option between any cities within a 500-mile radius, providing competitive trip times and fares, freeing up airspace and benefitting our environment, economy and national security. It makes no sense to abandon our efforts to develop high-speed rail in this country, so I hope the Republicans abandon their efforts to kill it.”

Congress also agreed to limit overtime payments by Amtrak to no more than $35,000 per employee, although there is an exemption if Amtrak finds that the cap for any specific employee would pose a risk to safety or operational efficiency.


Congress voted $2.1 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, which includes an $18 million increase in funding for state and local bus grants to $8.3 billion for FY 2012. Also provided is $1.9 billion in grants for new bus and transit start-ups – an increase of $358 million from FY 2011. However, the legislation limits the federal share of new starts to 60 percent, which could pose problems for budget-challenged municipal transit agencies.

Congress has yet to agree on allowing a portion of federal dollars earmarked for new equipment and facilities to be used by municipalities and states for operations so as to retard elimination of bus routes and employee furloughs. The UTU National Legislative Office continues to educate congressional lawmakers on the importance of allowing such flexibility.


Congress funded the Essential Air Service program at $144 million for FY 2012, but included language limiting funds to communities that first received Essential Air Service grants in FY 2010 and FY 2011. Congress remains deadlocked on longer term authorization for the Essential Air Service program.

Additionally, the Federal Aviation Administration received $12.5 billion – an increase of $137 million from FY 2011 – for airports, facilities and equipment, as well as for the Next Generation Air Traffic Control System.

An arbitrator has ruled that a merger between the UTU and the Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA) be implemented and that the presidents of the two unions – or their designees — meet to decide how the implementation is to proceed.

Arbitrator Michael H. Gottesman said the merger agreement to create the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) Workers Union is an enforceable agreement. Gottesman was named by AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka to decide the question of enforceability after binding arbitration was ordered by Federal District Court Judge John Bates.

Gottesman acknowledged that there is pending before Judge Bates another merger related case – a complaint by several UTU members that Titles I and V of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) were violated. When Judge Bates ordered binding arbitration to determine if the UTU-SMWIA merger agreement is enforceable, he said the LMRDA claims were beyond the purview of the arbitrator, and that he would decide those claims following the outcome of the arbitration.

Although the SMWIA asked Gottesman to allow the SMWIA to, in Gottesman’s words, “effectively micromanage the implementation of the merger, complete with timelines and very detailed instructions for the behavior of UTU officials,” Gottesman denied the request.   

Ruled Gottesman: “It is far better that the parties decide how to implement the merger than to have an arbitrator do so.” Accordingly, the award simply directs the presidents of UTU and SMWIA (or their designees) to meet “to discuss any and all issues pertinent to implementation of the merger … and to continue meeting on a regular basis until all such matters have been resolved.”

WASHINGTON — An extensive overhaul of air-carrier crew training has been proposed by the Federal Aviation Administration.

“This is a major effort to strengthen the performance of pilots, flight attendants and dispatchers through better training,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.

The proposed new training standards and procedures will be formalized in a final rule following a public comment period on the proposed changes.

In releasing the wide-ranging proposed changes, which stretch 671 printed pages, the FAA said, “flight crews would have to demonstrate, not just learn, critical skills in real-world training scenarios. Pilots would be required to train as a complete flight crew, coordinate their actions through Crew Resource Management, and fly scenarios based on actual events.”

Additionally, said the FAA, training would be required “to teach pilots how to recognize and recover from stalls and aircraft upsets,” and require “remedial training for pilots with performance deficiencies such as failing a proficiency test or check, or unsatisfactory performance during flight training or a simulator course.”

Flight attendants would be required to complete hands-on emergency drills every 12 months, and the proposal would standardize the training and experience requirements for certain dispatchers and instructors.

Click below to read the FAA 671-page notice in the Federal Register: