As Philly train cleanup continues, funding fight begins

 Investigators return to crash scene Thursday morning in North Philadelphia. (Brad Larrison/for NewsWorks)

Investigators return to crash scene Thursday morning in North Philadelphia. (Brad Larrison/for NewsWorks)

China outspends the U.S. 100 times over when it comes to rail infrastructure, according to Delaware’s U.S. Senator Chris Coons. He says that needs to change.

Like the rest of Delaware’s Congressional delegation, Chris Coons is a frequent passenger on Amtrak. He travels back and forth from Wilmington to Washington nearly every day Congress is in session – some of that ride is along very old structures. 

“This morning as I go to Washington, I will go over bridges and through tunnels that are a century old,” Coons said in an interview Thursday morning on CNN. “We have under-invested dramatically as a country.”

Republicans in the House Appropriations Committee voted against an increase in Amtrak funding that would have added $556 million in funding for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. “I think it’s striking,” Coons said of that vote. “If we were investing anything like our competitors, we would have a modern national train system. The Chinese spend 100 times more than we do on improving their national rail infrastructure.”

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The crash has also highlighted the Positive Train Control system designed to prevent these types of incidents from happening. The system, which can override a train that’s going too fast for a particular section of track, was not installed along the section of tracks where the crash happened Tuesday night.

Coons said he questioned the chairman of the FCC earlier this week about the issues preventing full implementation of PTC nationwide. “There are some critical barriers to getting Positive Train Control done that had to do with the deployment new communications switches, new systems, new towers, new poles,” Coons said.

The PTC requires communications lines along side all the railways across the nation. “I do think it’s an investment we need to make.”

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