January 25, 2002
CHICAGO–U.S. Rep. Jack Quinn (R-N.Y.), the father of the Railroad Retirement and Survivors Improvement Act of 2001, told a Chicago audience January 23 that the federal government needs to invest billions of dollars in the nation’s railroad infrastructure so that passenger and freight trains can realize their full potential to help the economy grow.
“We need to get out and do some missionary work,” Quinn told the audience at a fund-raising breakfast held at the Union League Club in Chicago’s Loop. “I try to visit with my colleagues in the House on a one-on-one basis to explain to them why this country needs to finance a railroad infrastructure buildup the way it financed highways and airports and waterways.”
If anyone in Congress can do that job, it’s Quinn, who serves as Chairman of the Railroad Subcomittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and last year was named one of the top 50 “Most Effective Lawmakers in Washington” by Congressional Quarterly magazine. A moderate Republican from suburban Buffalo now in his fifth term representing New York’s 30th Congressional District, Quinn is the son of an engineer retired from the South Buffalo Railroad, a 40-mile terminal-and-switching carrier. Known for his genial sense of humor, Quinn often warms up his audiences with a joke about the long hours his father put in working for the railroad and moonlighting at a local-government job.
“My mother checked our birthdays and found that my four brothers and I all were born nine months after a strike,” he says.
Watching his father juggle two jobs had a positive effect, however, when Quinn reached his fourth term in Congress. Two years ago he drafted and introduced legislation known at that time as House Resolution 52, sometimes known as the “Quinn Resolution.” A brief resolution calling on railroad management and labor to explore ways to improve widows’ benefits under the Railroad Retirement system, H.R. 52 ultimately led to H.R. 4844, the first major improvement in the Railroad Retirement system’s financial soundness and benefits package in more than a generation.
“The Quinn Resolution was the initial impetus for the Railroad Retirement bill that passed last year,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Jospeh C. Szabo. “I’ve checked it out and he deserves to be called the ‘father of Railroad Reitrement reform. His resolution said there was a problem with widows’ benefits and the carriers and the unions needed to work it out.”
Szabo said Quinn’s chairmanship of the Railroad Subcommittee is fortunate for a number of reasons. As a Republican representing a district made up largely of working families, he is essential to building strong bipartisan support for pro-labor legislation as well as for additional funding for rail-infrastructure projects and Amtrak.
“Congressman Quinn’s background makes him an important ‘ambassador’ who can represent the union viewpoint and the rail viewpoint effectively to members of his party who otherwise might not be receptive to those causes,” Szabo said.
“Also,” Szabo said, “Jack Quinn’s clear understanding of how railroad technology produces transportation is very important to helping other members of the Congress understand why federal funding must be secured in order to solve critical rail infrastructure problems. For example, we are told Cong. Quinn may be interested in holding hearings into the capacity restraints that are slowing down the movement of freight trains in the Chicago terminal area. That’s something our members can easily appreciate. It’s also something that will be appreciated by all of Metra and Amtrak passengers and all of the shippers who suffer from rail congestion in the Chicago area.”