Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Passenger Rail Construction – Speed or Safety?

            The Federal Railroad Administration boasts on its website that it makes available $10.1 billion in funding, together with its 33 partners in state governments and the District of Columbia, for construction of high speed intercity passenger railway projects, yet more than seven years after Congress mandated installation of Positive Train Control technology on existing rail passenger and hazardous freight rail routes, the federal government has not appropriated a single dime of funding to provide for safety of rail passengers in the Boston/Washington corridor, or for those citizens living in the vicinity of railbeds which daily carry tons of flammable and otherwise hazardous cargo around our nation. Following the May 12 fatal derailment in Philadelphia, FRA Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg ordered Amtrak to implement the simple expedient of installing more speed limit signs along the northbound tracks where the train traveling over 100 m.p.h. flew off a curve. In her statement announcing this initiative, Feinberg described the speed limit signs as “just initial steps” toward preventing similar disasters in the future.

            If there is no money for installation of PTC technology along existing railroad rights of way where millions of citizens already ride the rails at speeds up to 100 m.p.h, how can we expect new intercity railroad routes built to handle even greater train speeds to be safe when they are in service?
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