Has Congress been too cheap on passenger train safety?

Philadelphia Amtrak Accident 2015

Congress has been very cheap in keeping our passenger rail lines running. The train wreck that happened in Philadelphia this past week might have been prevented if the funding for Positive Train Control (PTC) had been adequate, instead of lukewarm.

 

Those who think that Amtrak should be privatized are fools and do not understand the history of passenger trains. Passenger traffic started to decline rapidly just after World War II ended and the end for privately run passenger trains came in 1971. When the end came Amtrak was created by the Federal Government to keep the trains running for the American public. To think that it can be a self sustaining proposition is ridiculous and it always must be subsidized by the government. To even think about passenger trains be discontinued would be just about suicidal. They are needed no matter what anyone thinks, without them our interstate highway system would become even more overloaded than it is. Unfortunately the interstate bus is more or less gone and air fares are way too high for a large part of the public. And remember that not everyone can drive or has access to an automobile.

 

What must be remembered is that while passenger traffic on our rail system can never be self sustaining, it does provide a very much needed service. Which runs contrary to what a lot of Tea Party and Conservative Republicans think; they are of the mind set that the government must be as small as possible and spend as little as it can.

 

Unfortunately for the train riding public our elected officials do not realize how stupid this way of thinking is hurting everyone; both those who ride the trains and who commute in buses. Here in the Northeast section of the country our local commuter trains run on Amtrak run rails. They depend on Amtrak to both maintain and operate the rails in a safe fashion. What congress is doing by not spending the appropriating the needed monies is just about criminal and there is no excuse that they can come up with that would justify their position.

 

The United States Senator from New Jersey, Cory Booker, said the following on the Television program ‘Meet the Press’, “The United States of America is falling behind dramatically,” Booker told Chuck Todd, the program’s host. “We are losing economic competitiveness, we are losing out on growth, so let’s leave that partisan argument aside for a second.” In response to the senators’ pronouncement, the Speaker of the House, John Boehner of Ohio, dismissed the idea that under investing in the infrastructure played a role in the crash. The House Speaker further stated that the only cause of the Amtrak accident was that the train was going twice the speed limit for that particular section of track.

 

As the House Speaker well knows, the amount of funding is barely adequate and only allowed Amtrak to install PTC in limited situations. This is because Amtrak does not have the money in its budget to use unless it diverts monies from other projects. And this is what they are exactly are going to have to do. Here is some more information from a National Public Radio (NPR) hosted by Joel Rose, Amtrak officials promised to have PTC in place on the entire Northeast corridor by the end of the year, but it’s a complex and expensive problem, and Congress hasn’t given Amtrak any extra money to do it. In fact, the House Appropriations Committee voted this week to cut Amtrak’s $1.4 billion budget. Republican Congressman John Mica of Florida told CNN today that the railroad gets too much public money as it is.

 

Really does Amtrak get too much of our national budget? The answer Congressman Mica is that you and the rest of your colleagues are being cheap at the train riding publics’ expense. You are part of the problem and our Congress must recognize that more money must be spent, but it must be wisely.

 

That is my opinion- Jumpin Jersey Mike

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