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.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.