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Amtrak Derailment Highlights Aging Infrastructure

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amtrak derailmentFormer Amtrak CEO David Hughes criticized the quality of the company’s equipment one day after the deadly derailment of Amtrak train No. 188. “What Amtrak has is among the poorest that I’ve ever seen given the level of use they get,” Hughes told CBS News on May 13, 2015. “The accumulated deferred maintenance and lack of attention really makes it almost a third-world operation.”

Amtrak signals and wires date back to circa the 1930s and have not been replaced since. In addition, many of the bridges and tunnels on Amtrak’s route are more than 100 years old and in need of repair.

The train was traveling on the densest rail route—The Northeast Corridor—when it derailed on a Tuesday night in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia.

More than 11.6 million people traveled along this route which Thinkprogress.org calls “a shouldering backlog of repairs.”

A bill is currently working through congress that would allow Amtrak to use profits to make improvements on the Northeast Corridor. Most of the profits from its busiest line are used to enhance other areas.

The Northeast Corridor Commission (NEC) estimates rail infrastructure repairs to cost $4.3 billion in 2019, but fiscal funding is expected to dwindle.

The NEC also lacks the ability to perform the maintenance to occur without impacting the existing system. All major components of the rail system must be functional including subsystems for track, structures, electric power, and signals.

Thinkprogess.org states it remains to be seen if the tragic Amtrak derailment will aid the debate for more infrastructure funding.

More than 200 passengers were injured and eight were killed when the Amtrak traveling twice the speed limit derailed shortly after 9:30 PM on May 12, 2015.