GOP-Koch Drive To Privatize Rail Service Caused Deadly Amtrak Derailment

pennsylvania-train-derailment
It is nearly impossible to keep track of the myriad ways America is falling behind the rest of the industrialized world due to Republican opposition to progress and refusal to invest even a penny in the nation or its people. It is not, as Republicans are wont to claim, that America is broke; not when Republicans always find money to give the rich and corporations tax cuts, or devote well over half of the nation’s annual spending for defense despite the nation is not at war.

The latest reminder that Republicans could not care one iota less about the deteriorating state of the nation’s infrastructure, transportation system, or American lives was the deadly train derailment in Pennsylvania. The tragic accident was, by all accounts, entirely due to perpetually inadequate funding for the nation’s transportation infrastructure; just one of the hallmarks of Republican governance when they control the nation’s purse-strings and yet another devious means to privatizing all aspects of government for the Koch brothers.

Although it is still early in the investigation of the Amtrak derailment, officials have definitively cited excessive speed according to the train’s black box. It was traveling over 100 miles-per-hour on a 50 mile-per-hour limit curve in the tracks that officials say is undoubtedly the cause of the accident. However, thus far they only know for sure it was excessive speed and that the engineer did apply emergency brakes albeit too late. One of the problems engineers face on the corridor’s poorly maintained tracks is that they have to repeatedly speed up and slow down as they navigate winding tracks they are forced to share with freight carriers. Tuesday’s derailment at the Frankford Junction is known as “notorious curve” because it was previously “the site of one of the nation’s deadliest train wrecks.”

The fatal derailment is not the first, and it will not be the last, time a preventable and deadly train accident occurs due to Republican transportation funding cuts. The issue in the Pennsylvania derailment, like several previous fatal crashes nationwide, is that there has been very dependable technology available for at least a decade that automatically reduces a freight or passenger train’s speed and prevents such deadly accidents as the latest one in Philadelphia; but it was not installed. And like everything about America’s crumbling infrastructure, it was not installed due to grossly inadequate funding.

All railroads are under a 2008 congressional-mandated ‘rail safety law‘ to install what is known as Positive Train Control. It is the technology that automatically stops or slows a speeding train as it enters speed-restricted stretches and according to the congressional mandate all railroads are expected to have fully implemented the technology by the end of 2015; particularly on the nation’s most heavily-traveled lines.

However, most passenger routes and major freight lines are seeking an extension past the end of this year due to the cost of the work the Association of American Railroads (AAR) say operators have already spent over $5 billion to comply with the law and prevent more deadly rail accidents. The AAR says rail lines still require about $5 billion more to fully comply with the law, but to guarantee rail operators cannot comply and jeopardize more American lives Republicans continue slashing funding for rail systems.

As if to punctuate their resolve to see more deadly accidents in one of America’s busiest rail corridors and expedite rail line privatization, Republicans did what Republicans do best and rejected President Obama’s paltry and insufficient $2.5 billion request for Amtrak. Instead of even approving half the necessary funding to help expedite installation of the ‘positive train control‘ safety measure, Republicans voted to cut Amtrak funding from its current level of $1.4 billion to $1.1 billion for the next fiscal year. It is little wonder America continues lagging behind the rest of the world in infrastructure repair, improvements, and maintenance; particularly in the transportation sector the Koch brothers want privatized.

Like everything in America except the military industrial complex and incredibly profitable corporations, the issues plaguing the nation’s rail transportation system is a gross lack of the federal commitment in funding to maintain, build, repair, and replace the country’s crumbling transportation links. Even corporate mainstream media saw fit to make the nation’s crumbling infrastructure the focus of a recent documentary, ‘Falling Apart‘ on CBS’ “60 Minutes” where it surprisingly cited “decades of government neglect” for the country’s failing transportation system and infrastructure.

One thing Republicans can never be accused of is being concerned, or humiliated, that America’s infrastructure is falling apart just to hasten their dream of privatizing the nation’s transportation systems. They seem legitimately proud that it has been happening on their watch and while they control the nation’s spending. It was curious then, that last month, House Speaker John Boehner leveled some extraordinarily harsh criticism at President Obama for letting America, the “richest and most technologically advanced” country on Earth, fall behind China; something Boehner said is humiliating to all Americans.

According to Boehner, the communist nation’s construction of a natural gas pipeline embarrassed America regardless it was part of its multi-faceted agenda to address global climate change. Boehner said it was humiliating for America because the President vetoed the climate change-exacerbating KeystoneXL pipeline authorization Congress passed for the Koch brothers. However, Boehner is not humiliated that when the President requested $2.5 billion for Amtrak infrastructure improvements and maintenance, Republicans cut funding from $1.4 to $1.1 billion. Where is Republican embarrassment or comparison to communist China that has a railway budget for the next fiscal year well over $128 billion?

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ most recent assessment of funding needs for the Northeast Corridor for both Amtrak and eight commuter railroads utilizing the passage is about $10 billion; just to achieve a state-of-good-repair and boost capacity by 40 percent. However, rail officials operating in the Northeast Corridor say the route faces a $1 billion annual shortfall in capital needs with a state-of-good-repair backlog of 11,100 major projects and 4,800 basic infrastructure tasks on its main Amtrak line; implementing Positive Train Control and crucial safety measures are at the top of the corridor’s to-do list; but Republicans cut funding.

It is obvious Republicans have no intent to adequately fund any infrastructure repairs or improvements, and it is glaringly obvious that rail systems are at the very top of their “do not fund” list. Republicans demand that Amtrak, like the Postal Service, operate like a for-profit corporation while requiring the agency to continue operating and running money-losing lines; something no business in America would consider doing and expect to avoid bankruptcy which is just one of the points of Republicans under-funding Amtrak and rail lines across America. Republicans will see to it that more Americans are killed and injured to privatize the nation’s roads, bridges, and rail lines for the Koch brothers who have made no secret that they want government investment in America’s transportation eliminated.

45 Replies to “GOP-Koch Drive To Privatize Rail Service Caused Deadly Amtrak Derailment”

  1. Privatization- Again.

    Privatize Public Utilities in California- Enron Scandal.

    Privatize Military Medical Care- Walter Reed Scandal.

    Privatize the Post Office- Postal Rates go up, and offices close.

    And now- privatize the Railroads.

    The beat goes on…

  2. moongrim,
    the railroads have been private entities for most if not all of their existence. Amtrak was formed, like most of the regional mass transit agencies, to keep the costs of moving passengers from driving these private companies into bankruptcy.

    this is where the gop’s idea of privatization falls short. after all, if these services were profitable the freight railroads wouldn’t have been eager to give them up. with no freight traffic to help offset the costs, a private operator will still have to rely on subsidies to continue to operate, even after reducing wages to school bus driver levels.

    the state of disrepair on the northeast corridor is misleading. track maintained for speeds over 100mph is in no way in poor condition, the problem lies in the age of the bridges, tunnels, and power diestrbution systems integral to the running of this railroad. Amtrak is currently trying to shoehorn over 600 trains a day through a 2 track tunnel into penn station, new York.

  3. I was just going to say just like the Koch bros, inc. did with their attempts to discredit the Vet’s medical system. You beat me to it. :-)

  4. Remember when they used to say railroads built America? The rail tycoons were riding high in the saddle and living the mansion life.

    That’s about the last time they fixed them.

  5. The “entire’ U.S.A. will soon become the new third-world “PRIVATE PROPERTY” of the “elite” 1% Koch brothers (thanks to the GOP). “KEEP OUT” signs will be posted everywhere. What will we all do then??? We could “sneak” into South America they might accept us. Or go somewhere in the Middle East. We could just wander around and the GOP “god” might drop food from the sky and some birds for us to eat. He (the GOP “god”) will also give us water from rocks too drink!!! Don’t worry folks be happy!!! The GOP and their “god” have “us” all covered. GOP “god” Bless The U.S.A.!!!

  6. In 2011, every Senate Republican voted to filibuster Obama’s American Jobs Act and its $2 billion in repair and renovation money for Amtrak.
    As you may recall, that $447 billion package was designed to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, especially in the lagging construction and public sectors, through large scale investment in infrastructure. In section subtitled “Immediate Transportation Infrastructure Investments,” the American Jobs Act featured this nugget for the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, also known as Amtrak:

    Subsection (e) makes available $2 billion to Amtrak for the repair, rehabilitation, and upgrade of Amtrak’s assets and infrastructure, including rolling stock.

  7. The GOP are now “selling and giving” our country (U.S.A.) and “all” of “us” soon too be third-world “peasants” to their “rich” masters!!! Its that simple. In my opinion. Who would have thought that this could actually happen in 2015? Tell “all” of your “sports-fans” friends to take their eyes off of their teams “balls and sticks” and check this evil “political” shit out. This evil stuff also affects them and their families too. If we can get a lot of the “Sports-Fans” too wake-up and get on top of this Govt. “political-shit” just like they do with their meaningless (on the “grand-scale” of things) game “scores” etc. we might save the U.S.A.. Politics is where the “real” game of life or death decisions are made and take place (24/7). Its time to get real…

  8. Don’t lump sports fans with idiots. I am a die-hard sports fan. My wife will tell you when one of my teams get eliminated I stay up all night mumbling about this or that call.

    You can have other interest other than politics because if you didn’t this cesspool would drive you crazy

  9. Here’s why Republican politicians don’t much care about Amtrak

    Philip Bump of the Washington Post EXPLAINS:

    House Republicans had planned to spend Wednesday marking up a transportation spending bill that included steep cuts to the budget for Amtrak, the federally funded passenger train service….Congress has delayed passing long-term legislation to fund Amtrak since 2013, instead repeatedly reauthorizing existing funding levels. The last time it passed a long-term bill, in 2008, the vote passed only after a rail disaster. Which, of course, happened again Tuesday night.

    The constant struggle of Amtrak to get funding derives largely from the fact that not very many Americans use the rail system. Ridership is heavily centered in the Northeast, in the corridor between Boston and Washington where Tuesday’s accident occurred. But more than that, ridership is unevenly distributed politically. Data from the National Association of Railroad Passengers shows the number of passengers that get on or off the train in any given congressional district, and reveals an obvious reason why Republicans might not be too concerned about funding the system.

    There are 184 congressional districts in which not one person got on or off a train in 2014…Of those 184 districts, 116 are currently represented by Republicans. On average, ridership in Republican districts was about 41,000 in 2014 — compared to 261,000 in Democratic districts.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2015/05/13/why-is-funding-amtrak-such-a-struggle-because-republican-districts-dont-use-it/

  10. djchefron, we agree on almost everything. I myself see sports as a waste of precious time and money we could be putting to more constructive humanity elevating purpose. I have a sign in my window stating “There is NO time to Play!”

  11. Let me see if I have this straight:
    In 2008 congress mandated the ‘rail safety law‘ to install the “Positive Train Control”.
    For the first 2 years of Obama’s presidency the Democrats control both houses of Congress, why didn’t they do something to fund Amtrak?

    I seem to remember something called a stimulus package of almost $1 trillion, $11.5 billion of which was earmarked for transit and rail infrastructure projects. This was in addition to the funds already budgeted for Amtrak.

    Another problem is that Amtrak is not operated profitably and has to be subsidized by the central government. They lose approximately $600 million a year on long haul routes that were put in place only to placate members of congress.

    The problem is more complex than just blaming the republicans for withholding funding. There seems to be enough blame to go around to both parties, those in charge of Amtrak, and the president himself.

  12. My god do you have reading compression problems? The law was passed in 2008 to be fully implementing by 2015 but now follow the white rabbit. In 2011 republicans killed the Stimulus act which was to prove funds for it. The Amtrak train that derailed was traveling near a notorious curve where cargo and commuter lines come together. The freight rail industry has for years lobbied to limit requirements that it add the safety gear to its tracks, complaining that the mandate was expensive and offered too short a time frame for implementation.

    The chief sponsor of the bipartisan bill delaying the safety technology mandate, Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, has accepted more than $290,000 in campaign contributions from the railroad industry during his career — the fifth-highest tally in the Senate, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a campaign finance watchdog group. The Association of American Railroads — which counts private railroad companies and Amtrak as members — backed Blunt’s legislation to delay the mandate.

    Now the President is not without blame in this because he signed legislation limiting the number of tracks that the law called for. Which tracks they don’t say but I doubt that corridor was in that package.

  13. djchefron will be mad as I agree with him. Mr. Uhl, lack of exercise is part of the reason we have such an obesity problem. And child obesity is a shame and schools programs keep dropping PE.
    One must find time to play to be well rounded and fit !

  14. jimmy, stop showing your ass.

    I have never been even slightly interested in any sport, ever.

    That has nothing to do with fitness. I swim, bike, hike, etc. but do not sit and watch football. Get it?

    Clueless. You can’t handle the fluffy subjects with dignity. Find another hobby besides politics.

  15. You are talking about the first stimulus and seeing that you are short on baking powder to make your brain rise I will try to break it down
    First the stimulus in 2009 was 825 billion not the trillion you was told by fox. Of that 47 billion went to infrastructure meaning all infrastructure and seeing we are ranked 25th in the world that wasn’t enough.
    And 275 billion of that went to tax cuts which does nothing for the economy

  16. There are more “important” things going on in the world today and in “politics” at the moment (as you well know) than “Sports Games” scores. Some supposedly “smart” people I know can tell you exactly how far some dude threw a ball back in 1955 but does not ever follow “politics”. Then we have some not so smart people who could not even tell you who the V.P. of the U.S.A. is today. But they can tell you how many pimples are on some “jock” players ass!!! I was trying my “best” not too “insult” too many of the sports-fans (just rattle their “Batters” cages a little). No offense actually meant to those like you who are fully “awake”. We “all” have our very own “escape” avenues and vices that we utilize too remain “sane” in this world today. Blah, blah, blah. It would really be “nice” if we could just convince “all” of the “sports fans” too vote the GOP out of power in the next upcoming elections. In my opinion.

  17. Following mixed martial arts on tv (sometimes Fox Sports
    channel) and music on You-tube have kept me from losing it when repug bs really gets me hoppin’ mad. At 65
    with knee replacements and a pacemaker, fishing and 2
    mile walks are about it as far as avoiding couchlock.
    The Amtrak wipeout should never have happened in our
    high tech day and age. Ike wouldn’t identify with today’s
    Kochroach repugs.

  18. I would call those sports or activities. I think you get the point. Really a shame liberals can’t ever be civil in a conversation with a conservative.
    But then our “leaders” have worked on dividing those with different ideologies, skin color, incomes, etc.
    Intelligent people do not take the bait !

  19. And yet you’re the one to call upon me with my changing my handle- moonbeam?

    See to the beam in thine own eye hypocrite!

  20. Actually I was watching though the wormhole with Morgan Freeman last night and the subject was why conservatives and liberals cant agree. The theory is that we think about problems with different parts of our brains. With cons they say when presented with a problem their first instinct is to fight or flight. With libs its what’s the best way to solve the problem. So they say that’s why we have a partisan divide and wont be able to agree on anything

    But what I found interesting is another study said the way to overcome it is to play violent video games. The researchers said that when we play games that kill somehow we start to feel empathy for other people and then we can come to a common ground.

    Oh well people should check it out the show in the end you just might say, I didn’t know that

  21. The problem Rin, is that Organized Sports (Football, Baseball, and such) are tantamount to religions.

    You’re not allowed to question their existence.

    And like religion- they’re good for individuals and a way of life to keep one’s own health in good repair.
    But when it gets organized- that’s when the B.S. starts. Racketeering, Drug Use, Idolization, Inappropriate Compensation, and most of all- Immunity from Prosecution for crimes committed. (Drunk Girl Rape- ring a bell anyone?)

  22. Nice series, I like how he opens each episode with related events from his own life.
    I’m all for that playing video games. But first we’d have to insure that no Cheat Codes would be allowed for anyone.

  23. Blame the government -hell? Blame the Republicans for fouling up everything. All they care about is satisfying the Koch Bros and other puppetiers controlling the purse strings of the American Republican Taliban Party.

  24. MOONGRIM

    liberalism = hypocrisy

    Against corporations, but want more jobs.
    Against fossil fuels, but pro eagle chopping windmills.
    Against 1% that pay 43% of all Federal Income Tax, but NOT the 1% on the left (Clinton,Gore,Soros, etc,)
    Against Christians that, as a group, are benevolent to the poor.
    For free speech unless disagree with you, ie, Citizens United, desire for Fairness Act,etc.
    And on and on and on. HYPOCRITES

  25. No.
    Conservatism = Hypocrisy Extraordinaire!
    Not against corporations- against Irresponsible Corporations. We want jobs from RESPONSIBLE Corporations.
    Windmills and eagles getting chopped don’t generate anywhere near as much Carbon.
    For EVERYONE paying their fair share- regardless of political affiliation and not just Income Tax
    Against Hypocritical Religions, that like to pretend to care for poor.
    For All Free Speech regardless- including the Fairness Doctrine that Republicans axed.

    No Hypocrite- YOU are the embodiment of all things Wrong with this country.

  26. My there’s a lot of bloviating on this thread. There’s nothing to this story. The train crashed because the engineer was going 106 in a 50mph zone. That’s it. All the rest is hooey.

  27. Yes, because safety mechanisms that would have sensed the train was beyond the approved speed limit, long before the engineer obviously did, and would have automatically applied the emergency brakes wouldn’t have effected the outcome at all and is just hooey.

    [sarcasm]

  28. The Fairness Doctrine was AGAINST free speech.
    Taxes -Fair according to whom? Top 1% pays 43% of Fed, Income tax. Top 20% pays 84% of all Fed. Income tax-seems they pay their fair share.
    Liberalism is destroying America !!!!!!!
    Conservatives believe in what Founders believed. The stuff that made America great until Liberalism rose up.

  29. do you also remember the following?

    ohio and Wisconsin turn down money that would have funded the construction of high speed rail lines in their states.

    gov Christie cancelled new jersey’s crucial involvement in the new Hudson river tunnels, which would have relieved congestion in the two current 100 year old tunnels (which see over 600 trains a day) even though in doing so it meant new jersey had to repay the federal gov’t $300 million. his reasoning “we can’t afford it….”

    were you aware that Illinois and Michigan, who accepted the federal money, now have passenger trains running on tracks good for 110mph?

    are you also aware that no form of passenger transport exists in the usa without some form of gov’t subsidy, yet only rail is expected to turn a profit including upkeep of its own infrastructure?

  30. just wondering where you got that little gem of wisdom from. I would suggest you google penn central and watch some of the videos that come up. the freight mainlines are in the best shape I’ve seen them in my lifetime. as a former railroad employee and long time observer I can tell you horror stories about trains derailing while standing still in the early days of conrail, because the tracks were too weak to support their weight.

    amtrak on the other hand, hasn’t seen meaningful investment in infrastructure since the Clinton years.

    ironically, the locomotive pulling the train in philly was an almost new acs64 and should have been state of the art.

  31. in all fairness there were other systems in place that should have stopped the train but didn’t. while it is evident that for whatever reason the engineer came into the curve way too fast (asleep maybe? he doesn’t remember applying the brakes.) it is also evident that the brakes were applied according to the event recorder. the recorder would show the condition of the brakes on the locomotive but not the coaches following. were the brakes actually applied on the coaches as well? if not that’s a mechanical issue. were the brakes applied as a penalty application after the engineer failed to acknowledge a restrictive signal? unanswered, but that should have been standard practice. I know it was on the freight locomotives I was familiar with, in cab signaled territory. if the engineer failed to acknowledge a signal other than clear within a set time, the emergency brakes (penalty application) would automatically come on.

  32. Errrrr, Jimmy, Fox entertainment, Rupert Murdoch, the Koch’s, the Tea Party, Israel, or any branch of the Republican Party and too many fake democrats are not MY leaders. I may have to suffer because they have lied, cheated and stole control of this country temporarily. But it will be temporary, just until the next few generations take over. I hope you saw the 19 year old girl call out Jeb Bush for his lying traitorous ways. There are millions just like her getting ready to save this country. I hope I live long enough to see it but the “few” have been hard at work putting all this in place, so I probably won’t but I can die knowing it IS coming.

  33. jimmyk, I see your point but to clarify I’m not against Physical Education classes being mandatory in schools because of the obvious benefits. Of course students with disabilities are excused, what I’m saying is that extra curricular sports have overtaken the funds and importance OVER real education. And as far as exercise I see the need, but my job is exercise so I’m lucky, However..we DO spend way too much time on needless pursuits and folly that feeds billionaires more of our hard earned money and they want more every year.

  34. We can agree that better REAL education is needed. Kids also need activities to keep the body fit and functional. My granddaughter dances, and the boys play soccer, baseball, etc. My engineer daughter and son-in-law make sure they learn their subjects.

  35. Unfortunately, on trains, as well as on planes, routine maintenance checks are counter to many managers’ expectations of insuring steady (and paying) travel.

    A) If a unit is out for inspection- it’s not making money.
    B) We got away with pencil-whipping that weekly maintenance…

  36. The Fairness Doctrine was AGAINST free speech.
    Bull! The Fairness Doctrine INSURED free speech by insuring that BOTH sides got heard.
    Income tax-seems they pay their fair share.
    No they don’t. When a multi-billion dollar corporation pays less tax than I do- something is wrong.
    Liberalism is destroying America !!!!!!!
    Conservatives believe in what Founders believed. The stuff that made America great until Liberalism rose up.
    Bull! America was founded by Liberals. The Founding Fathers wouldn’t be welcomed into today’s Conservative Party:
    http://archives.politicususa.com/2010/12/18/founding-fathers-liberal.html

    Leave it to a Conservative to Ignore Reality!

  37. This is what cracks me when they say the so called founding fathers were conservatives. Correct me if I am wrong but isn’t being conservative means to conserve the status quo? If so that would mean they would want to keep the madness of king George and those rascally founding fathers were progressives for their time

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