Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Conference report filed in House (01/23/1976)

(Conference report filed in House, H. Rept. 94-781)

Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act - =Title I: General Provisions= - States that the purpose of this Act is to revitalize the American railway system through regulatory reform, changes in the procedure for considering merger and consolidation applications, financing the rehabilitation of facilities and equipment and continuation of service on light density rail lines that are necessary to continued employment.

=Title II: Railroad Rates= - Revises provisions of the Interstate Commerce Act which provide for Interstate Commerce Commission prescription of the division of joint rates among carriers. Provides that the Commission shall establish rules for the conduct of division of such rates and fares. Directs the Commission to issue a final order in division cases within 270 days after the submission of a complete evidentiary case.

Requires carriers to file all supporting evidence with their complaint in division proceedings and thereafter submit only rebuttal evidence.

Provides new standards and procedures for the regulation of railroad rates subject to the jurisdiction of the Interstate Commerce Commission.

States that the Commission may order a hearing concerning the lawfulness of any new rate and may set it aside if unlawful. Allows the Commission to temporarily suspend a new rate except where such increase or decrease is within seven percent of the rate that was in effect on January 1 of that year.

Provides that no rate of a carrier shall be held up to a particular level to protect the traffic of any other carrier or mode of transportation unless the Commission finds that such rate reduces or would reduce the going concern value of the carrier charging the rate.

Enables the Commission and carriers to adjust rates in response to market demands. Requires the Commission to establish procedures for the establishment of separate rates for distinct rail services.

Specifies factors which the Commission must take into account in its consideration of the public interest when deciding to cancel joint rates and/or through routes.

Directs the Commission to investigate all allegations that rate increases or decreases will have the effect of disrupting relationships between commodities, ports, points, regions, territories and other particular descriptions of traffic; and allegations that such increase or proposed decrease will have a significantly adverse affect on the competitive posture of shipper or consignees which would be affected by such increase or decrease.

Directs the Commission, within 12 months, to conduct an investigation of the rate structure for the transportation of recyclable or recycled materials, and the manner in which such rate structure effects such rate increases approved by the Commission for the transportation of such materials. Declares that if the rate structure is found by the Commission, after public hearings, to be unjust, unreasonable, or discriminatory, the Commission may issue orders to remove unreasonableness or discrimination.

Requires the Commission to report to the President and Congress for three years following the enactment of these provisions all actions commenced to eliminate such discriminatory policies toward recycled materials. Permits the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to intervene in proceedings before the Commission to expedite the goals of this section. Instructs the Secretary, in cooperation with the Commission, to establish research, development, and demonstration projects to produce transportation equipment that facilitates the collection and processing of recycled materials, so as to facilitate their efficient transportation ability.

Requires the Commission, within 24 months after the enactment of the Rail Services Act of 1975, to develop and promulgate reasonable standards and procedures for the establishment of adequate revenue levels for railroads.

Permits anyone to file notice of intent to file a new rate whenever the implementation of such proposed rate would require a total capital investment of $1,000,000 or more. States that when such rate is filed, the Commission is obligated to hold a hearing, and if within 180 days of such filing, the Commission does not find the proposed rate unlawful, it will go into effect upon 30 days notice.

Grants the Commission authority under specified circumstances to exempt regulated carrier services from all or part of the regulations provided under the act if such regulation is found fully or partially unnecessary to effectuate the goals of the National Transportation Policy, to effective regulation under that policy and when such regulation would serve little or no useful public purpose. Authorizes the Commission to order that a regulation be withdrawn in whole or in part for such period of time as it might prescribe. States that such an exemption may be revoked after notice and a hearing upon a finding that the conditions which gave rise to the exemption no longer exist or that the continuance of the exemption is not consistent with the National Transportation Policy. Requires the Commission to report annually to Congress on all actions taken pursuant to this paragraph.

Requires (presently permits) the Commission to prescribe rules and regulations, and terms and conditions, for the approval of agreements between carriers.

Outlines the type of agreements which shall not be approved. Authorizes the Commission to review agreements previously approved to determine if such agreements are in conformity with standards set forth in this Act. Prohibits the Commission from entering an order terminating or modifying its approval of any agreement earlier than six months after the date of the enactment of this Act.

Directs the Federal Trade Commission, in consultation with the Department of Justice, to furnish assessments to the Interstate Commerce Commission with respect to the competitive effects of rate bureau agreements. Requires that these reports be made available to the public.

Provides that rate bureaus must make a final disposition of proposed rules, rates or charges docketed before a bureau within 120 days after the proposal is docketed.

Directs the Commission, beginning two years after the date of enactment of the Rail Services Act of 1975, to require that all rates be incorporated into individual carrier or rate-making association tariff publications within two years of the initial publication of the rate. Provides that failure on the part of carriers to accomplish this would result in nullification of the rate.

Requires that a railroad exhaust its State remedy for a change in intrastate rates, but provides that if a State fails to act on the railroad's application for rate change within 120 days, the application may then be acted upon by the Commission.

Directs the Commission to establish rules and regulations for the computation of demurrage charges so that freight car utilization is maximized.

=Title III: Reform of the Interstate Commerce Commission= - Permits the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce of the Senate to make written requests for documents which are in the possession or under control of the Commission and which relate to matters involving a common carrier by railroad.

Adopts provisions requiring the submission of specified ICC information concurrently to the President and Congress.

Redesignates the Rail Services Planning Office as the Transportation Services Planning Office and establishes it as a permanent office of the Commission. Directs the Office to: (1) assist the Commission in studying proposals for merger, consolidation, control, coordination, joint use of tracks or other facilities, acquisition or sale of assets, or other such projects; (2) assist in formulating policies to further a more competitive, energy, efficient, and coordinated transportation system; (3) develop a new accounting system to determine specified costs and revenues associated with rail lines; (4) determine the available cost standards used in the provisions on discontinuance or abandonment; and (5) prepare an evaluation of any light density line not included in the final system plan when so requested by a State.

Revises provisions of the Interstate Commerce Act outlining procedural requirements effecting all formal Commission proceedings.

Defines the term "hearing" to include an opportunity for the submission of all evidence in written form, followed by an opportunity for briefs, written statements or conferences.

Provides that any interested party may, subject to rules promulgated by the Commission, petition the Commission for rehearing, reargument or reconsideration of a decision, order or requirement of the Commission.

Requires the Commission to conclude formal investigations of railroads within three years, at which time unconcluded investigations shall be automatically dismissed.

Establishes an independent office affiliated with the Commission to be known as the Office of the Public Counsel. Provides that the Office shall be administered by a Director, to be appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. Provides that the Director shall be appointed for a four-year term, and shall be responsible for the discharge of the functions of the Office.

Grants the Office standing in any case before the Commission involving a railroad and authorizes it to: (1) petition for the initiation of proceedings within the jurisdiction of the Commission; (2) seek judicial review of any Commission action regarding railroads; and (3) solicit, study, and evaluate the views of communities and users of rail service affected by proceedings before the Commission. Authorizes specified amounts to be appropriated to such Office.

Directs the Commission to study, develop, and submit to the Congress, rules of practice under which the Commission proposes all adjudicatory, and rulemaking proceedings with respect to any matter involving a common carrier by railroad.

Specifies rules of practice and procedures for establishing such rules. Requires the Commission to review such rules of practice at least once every three years.

Declares the following taxation activities to be an undue burden on interstate commerce: (1) the assessment of transportation property at a value which bears a higher ratio to the true market value of such transportation property than the ratio which the assessed value of all other commerical and industrial property bears to the true market value of such property in the same assessment jurisdiction; (2) the levy or collection of a tax on an assessment unlawful pursuant of (1); (3) the levy or collection of an ad valorem property tax on transportation property at a tax rate higher than that generally applicable to commercial and industrial property in the same assessment jurisdiction; and (4) the imposition of any other tax which results in the discriminatory treatment of any common or contract carrier subject to the Interstate Commerce Act.

Requires that the Commission adopt a uniform cost and revenue accounting system for railroads, reporting such system by June 30, 1977, and making it effective January 1, 1978. Sets forth minimum standards for inclusion in such accounting system. Directs the Commission to review such accounting system at least every five years and to revise it as necessary. Authorizes additional staffing of two systems accountants and the appropriation of amounts not to exceed $1,000,000 for procuring temporary and contractual assistance to carry out this provision.

Removes the exemption for railroad securities under the Securities Act with listed exceptions.

Establishes the Rail Services Planning Office to: (1) assist the Commission in evaluating mergers, consolidations, joint use of facilities, and acquisition or sale of assets of railroads; (2) assist the Commission in developing economic regulation of transportation; (3) assist States and local and regional transportation agencies in making determinations of whether to provide rail service continuation subsidies to maintain in operation particular rail properties; and (4) employ the services of attorneys and other requisite personnel to protect the interests of those communities and users of rail service which might not otherwise be adequately represented in the reorganization process under this Act.

States that in applying provisions of Federal law relating to distribution of railroad cars, unit-train service and non-unit-train service shall be considered separate and distinct classes of service and a distinction shall be made between these two classes of service and between the cars used in each class of service.

Defines "unit-train services".

Directs the Commission to prepare a proposed modernization and revision of the Interstate Commerce Act and codification of all Acts supplementary thereto.

=Title IV: Mergers and Consolidations= - Revises the Department of Transportation Act. Empowers the Secretary to plan for and develop proposals for mergers and similar arrangement intended to achieve a more adequate rail system. Authorizes the Secretary, upon request of any railroad, to hold conferences concerning any proposed unification or coordination project.

Imposes deadlines on the Commission and otherwise modifies the procedures to be followed in merger cases for the purpose of expediting the processing of these cases before the Commission.

=Title V: Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing= - Establishes in the Treasury of the United States the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Trust Fund under the direction of the Secretary of Transportation. Provides that the fund shall be used to provide capital to furnish financial assistance to railroads. Sets forth the duties and powers of the Secretary with respect to the administration of the Fund.

Establishes original jurisdiction in the district courts of the United States for all civil actions in which the Secretary or the Fund is a party.

Establishes the procedures for the establishment by the Secretary of Transportation of a classification of rail lines on the basis of the essentiality of each line to the rail transportation system and economic viability of each line.

Directs each of the nation's railroads (except those railroads which have elected to be reorganized pursuant to the provisions of the Regional Rail Reorganization Act) to prepare and submit to the Secretary of Transportation and the Commission a traffic density schedule on each main and branch line for each of the preceeding five calendar years.

Directs the Secretary of Transportation to develop and publish a set of preliminary standards for classifying main and branch rail lines according to the degree to which they are essential to the rail transportation system.

Requires each railroad to prepare and submit to the Secretary of Transportation and the United States Railway Association a full and complete schedule of its deferred maintenance and delayed capital expenditures as of December 31, 1975, with a 10 year projection of desired maintenance and capital expenditures.

Provides for the Secretary of Transportation to develop and publish preliminary financing recommendations to meet the railroads capital needs.

States that the Association shall evaluate the Secretary's preliminary financial recommendations and the Secretary of Transportation shall transmit his final recommendations to Congress within 90 days after the receipt of the Association's evaluation.

Sets forth the mechanism for railroads, other than Consolidated Rail Corporation, to receive financial assistance.

Provides that such financing shall be in the form of purchase by the Secretary of redeemable preference shares at par; and that the Secretary may, in case of railroads in reorganization, agree to purchase redeemable preference shares of such railroads at par as part of the reorganization plan. Permits the Secretary to purchase certificates issued under the Bankruptcy Act by a trustee of a railroad in reorganization.

Authorizes the Secretary to issue Trust Fund Anticipation Notes and Trust Fund Bonds pursuant to guidelines and restrictions set forth in the Act.

Authorizes the appropriation of $600,000,000 to the Secretary of the Treasury for the purposes of the Fund; and directs the Secretary of the Treasury to purchase Fund anticipation notes from the Secretary. Exempts issuance and sale of redeemable preference shares by railroads under this title from State securities laws and from the registration and prospectus delivery requirements of the Securities Act. Authorizes the Secretary to guarantee payment of the principal balance and interest on obligations the proceeds of which go to acquire or rehabilitate rail facilities and equipment. Sets forth prerequisites and conditions of such guarantees. Authorizes the Secretary to issue notes to the Secretary of the Treasury to replenish moneys in the obligation guarantee fund. Requires annual reports to the Congress on the operations of and conditions of the Fund.

Requires fair and equitable arrangements to protect the interests of employees not otherwise protected under title V of the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973, who may be affected by actions taken under this title.

Permits the Secretary to provide up to $200,000,000 to any railroad or railroads to improve intercity passenger service on lines outside the Northeast Corridor.

=Title VI: Implementation of the Final System Plan= - Revises the Regional Rail Reorganization Act to exempt all transfers or conveyances of properties made pursuant to the Final System Plan from transfer taxes of the United States, of any state, or of any political subdivision of a State.

Permits the Association to modify, upon petition of any State, the final system plan to make further designations with respect to lines and related rail properties of railroads in reorganization in the region designated for transfer to the Corporation under such plan, if such designations are likely to result in improved rail service to users on such lines and connecting lines and would not materially impair the profitability of the Corporation.

Permits the Association to modify, supplement, or add to the designations of rail properties in the final system plan if it finds such actions are necessary to achieve the efficient implementation of the final system plan.

Requires the Board of Directors of the Association to have a Finance Committee.

Sets the maximum obligational authority of the Association at $275,000,000. Authorizes it to invest in ConRail securities up to $1,000,000,000 of debentures and, thereafter, up to $1,000,000,000 of series A preferred stock for the purposes of modernization of rail properties, acquisition of equipment, and for refinancing.

Sets forth conditions of noncompliance of ConRail under which the Finance Committee may direct that the Association not purchase such securities, subject to a Congressional disapproval.

Sets forth terms and conditions of debentures and series A securities. Authorizes the appropriation of $2,100,000,000 to the Association for purchase of such securities.

Provides that during the period between the effective date of the final system plan and the date of the conveyance of rail properties, the Association may make loans to provide for the purchase by ConRail of material and equipment. Authorizes the Association to enter into loan agreements in an aggregate of $230,000,000 with ConRail, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, and any profitable railroad to which properties are transferred under the Act, under which such entities will agree to meet existing or prospective obligations of the railroads in reorganization in order to avoid disruptions in ordinary business relationships.

Directs the Association to forgive any loan made to ConRail or the National Railroad Passenger Corporation on the third anniversary of any such loan, unless it is determined that ConRail has not exercised due diligence in executing specified procedures under this title; or it is determined that failure to forgive such loan would not adversely affect ConRail's ability to become self-sustaining; and neither House of Congress disapproves such forgiveness.

Authorizes ConRail to issue debentures, series A and B preferred stock, common stock, and other securities to carry out the final system plan.

Authorizes the Comptroller General to audit the programs and finances of ConRail. Requires the Association to report annually to the Congress.

States that if the Secretary or the Association determines that, as part of continuing reorganization, further restructuring of rail properties in the region through transactions supplemental to the final system plan would promote the establishment and retention of a financially self-sustaining rail service system in the region adequate to meet the needs of the region, the Secretary or the Association, as the case may be, may develop proposals for such supplemental transactions as are necessary or appropriate to implement the needed restructuring.

Provides that on the date when ConRail is required to deposit securities with the special court, the Association shall deposit with the special court the certificates of value of the Association. Prescribes the values of certificates of value upon redemption.

Provides that ConRail's Board of Directors shall consist of 13 members selected in accordance with the articles and bylaws of the Corporation as follows: (1) six individuals selected by the holders of the Corporation's debentures and series A preferred stock voting as one class, every $100 principal amount of debentures, and every $100 liquidation amount of series A preferred stock each receiving one vote for directors; (2) three individuals selected by the holders of the Corporation series B preferred stock; and (3) two individuals selected by the holders of the Corporation's common stock.

Requires the special court to assure that the operation and administration of the employee pension benefit plans described in this Act shall be continued, without termination or interruption, by the Corporation until such time as the Corporation elects to amend or terminate any such plan, in whole or in part; and the appropriate transfers and assignments with respect to all rights and obligations relating to such plans shall be made to the Corporation for such purposes, without prejudice to payment of consideration for whatever rights any railroad in reorganization may have in any residual assets under any such employee pension benefit plan.

States that, in the interest of corporate simplification, the Corporation, in implementing the final system plan, shall undertake, as soon as possible and pursuant to financial assistance provided by the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976, to acquire all interests in rail lines and related rail properties otherwise conveyed to the Corporation, upon the tender of such interests to it, so as to eliminate any remaining intermediate layers of ownership or interest.

Requires Conrail to offer employment, to be effective as of the date of a conveyance or discontinuance of service under the provisions of this Act, to each employee of a railroad in reorganization in the region who has not already accepted an offer of employment by the Association, an acquring railroad, or the Corporation.

States that in all cases of claims by employees, arising under the collective bargaining agreements of the railroads in reorganization in the region, ConRail, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, or an acquiring carrier shall assume responsibility for the processing of any such claims, and payment of those which are sustained or settled on or subsequent to the date of conveyance, and shall be entitled to direct reimbursement from the Association pursuant to this Act.

Permits a transfer of protected employees, to whom ConRail has offered employment, to the National Railroad Passenger Corporation.

Protects employee pension rights. Permits termination of employees with less than three years' service with a railroad in reorganization.

Requires an acquiring railroad to offer such employment, and afford such employment protection to employees of a railroad from which it acquires properties or facilities, and to afford such protection to its own employees who are adversely affected by such acquisition, as shall be agreed upon between such acquiring railroad and the representatives of such employees prior to such acquisition.

Exempts actions to formulate and implement the final system plan from the Interstate Commerce Act and the Bankruptcy Act.

Provides that the provisions of the Securities Act of 1933 shall not apply to transactions involving the issuance of any security of the Corporation to the Association, transactions involving the issuance of any security of the Corporation that is deposited with the special court, or transactions involving the issuance or distribution of any security of the Corporation, where the terms and conditions of such issuance or distribution are approved by the special court.

Exempts from the environmental impact statement requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 actions taken under this Act and actions taken in compliance with the final system plan.

=Title VII: Northeast Corridor Project Implementation= - Establishes a wholly-owned corporate subsidiary of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation to be called the Northeast Corridor Improvement Corporation. States that the Northeast Corridor operation, improvements and finances shall be segregated from the operation of the rest of Amtrak's intercity rail passenger system.

Authorizes the Corporation to acquire and sell property, provide for the continuous operation of rail freight, improve rail transportation between Boston and the District of Columbia, and take other specified action to improve high-speed rail passenger service.

Establishes the Northeast Corridor Disputes Board which shall resolve disputes between the Corporation and other parties. Directs that the decisions of the Board shall be final and binding on all parties.

Sets as a goal to be achieved by the Northeast Corridor improvement project the improvement of rail scheduling and facilities, and freight service.

Requires reports to Congress annually on the achievement of such goals, and, after two years, on the financial and operating results of the intercity rail passenger and freight service.

Authorizes appropriations for the achievement of such goals of $1,600,000,000.

Revises the Department of Transportation Act in order to allow the Department of Transportation to construct or acquire space in suitable buildings of a non-historic nature where no suitable historical or architecturally significant facility is available.

=Title VIII: Local Rail Service Continuation= - Revises the Interstate Commerce Act to restate the Interstate Commerce Commissions' authority to require railroads to obtain a certificate of convenience and necessity from the Commission for the extension or construction of lines. Prohibits the abandonment of rail service unless covered by a certificate which is issued by the Commission.

Requires that in determining whether the proposed abandonment is consistent with the public convenience and necessity, the Commission shall consider whether there will be a serious adverse impact on rural and community development by such abandonment or discontinuance.

Provides that if a line has been operated under a rail service continuation payment provided in conformance with paragraph (1) or section 304(c)(2) and for two consecutive years the difference between the revenue attributable to such rail properties and the avoidable costs of providing rail service on such properties together with a reasonable return on the value of such rail properties has been one dollar or less the Commission shall not issue a certificate of abandonment or discontinuance, if the rail line is not owned by the rail carrier providing service it shall be conveyed to such carrier for a fair and equitable value, and the railroad shall not again apply for a certificate of discontinuance or abandonment for two years from the date of such conveyance.

Directs the Secretary of Transportation to provide financial assistance to States for rail freight assistance programs designed to cover the cost of servicing, purchasing and rehabilitating rail lines.

Provides that in order for a State to be eligible for such funds it must establish a plan for rail services which meets the requirements specified in the Act.

Allows the termination of service on all lines not included in the Final System Plan if not prohibited by the terms of existing leases and agreements.

Requires the Secretary to provide financial assistance to provide rail service continuation payments, acquisition and modernization payments, and to finance rail banking and the construction and improvement of facilities necessary to carry freight now carried on lines not included in the Final System Plan. Provides that the Federal share of such costs is 100 percent for the first year and 90 percent for the second year.

Prohibits a State from using more than five percent of its entitlement for rail planning activities.

Makes funds available to each State for the cost of operating and maintaining rail service facilities such as bridges, car floats, lighters, ferries, yards, shops, docks, or other facilities useful in facilitating and maintaining main line or local rail services and which are also contained in each State's Rail Plan.

Directs the Interstate Commerce Commission, within 180 days after the effective date of the Final System Plan, to issue regulations for the determination of payments to be made by commuter authorities to operating railroads for commuter services.

Provides emergency operating assistance for commuter services affected by the implementation of the Final System Plan.

Requires that consideration be given to future public use of abandoned railroad rights-of-way and adequate funds be provided for conversion to alternative public uses where possible. Authorizes the appropriation of $25,000,000 for fiscal year 1976 through 1978 to carryout such purposes.

Authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to establish a bank to consist of rail trackage and other rail properties. Authorizes the appropriation of $6,000,000 for the rail bank.

=Title IX: Miscellaneous Provisions= - Instructs the Secretary, within 540 days of enactment of these provisions, to conduct a comprehensive study of the American railway system. Directs him to study the past and present policies of Federal aid to railroads.

Directs the Secretary to establish a Minority Resource Center, which shall establish and maintain, and disseminate information from a national information clearing house for minority entrepreneurs and businesses, for purposes of furnishing, to such entrepreneurs and businesses, information with respect to business opportunities involving the maintenance, rehabilitation, restructing, improvement, and revitalization of the Nation's railroads.

Directs the Secretary to study the potential benefits of railroad electrification for high-density rail lines and to report his findings to Congress within six months.

Directs the Commission to study conglomerates and other corporate forms in the rail industry, determining the effect such forms have on various aspects of the industry. Requires the submission of such a report within one year.

Grants the Secretary 720 days after enactment to submit to Congress and the President a study of a national transportation program and the criteria, standards, and data upon which the program is based.

Requires the Secretary to submit within 90 days a comprehensive report on the anticipated effect, including environmental impact, of rail abandonments in States not previously studied by the Association.

Forbids discrimination based on race, color, national origin or sex under any project, program or activity funded in whole or part with funds made available under this Act, and grants the Secretary specified powers to insure compliance.