Amtrak And Our Infrastructure Crisis


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In The Wake Of The Amtrak Tragedy, Let’s Refocus On Investing In Our Nation

Eight people have died and 200 were injured when an Amtrak train traveling more than 100 miles per hour in a 50 MPH zone careened off the tracks near Philadelphia on Monday night. Former Congressman and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress Patrick Murphy (D-PA), who was a passenger on the train, described the accident as “so fast, it was surreal. But there was a few moments where I thought I was going to die and that was one of them.” While federal officials have confirmed the train was going far too fast around a turn, the cause of the accident is still under investigation.

Regardless of the possible causes, tragedies like this often serve as a wake-up call for the public. And when it comes to our country’s funding for Amtrak and for transportation infrastructure more broadly, we need one. Badly.

Amtrak is vastly overburdened. More travelers than ever are taking trains, and yet federal funding continues to decrease. In the Northeast Corridor, already the densest rail route in the United States and responsible for 30 percent of the entire country’s GDP, 11.6 million people ride the Amtrak each year and yet the route has $4.3 billion in backlogged repairs (millions more riders use Amtrak-owned infrastructure in the region on commuter rails). Congressional leaders are not addressing the need; in fact, hours after the crash, a House panel voted to cut Amtrak’s budget by a fifth. Here’s a chart from ThinkProgress to give you a better idea:

amtrak2

CREDIT: Andrew Breiner

In addition, technology exists today that may have prevented the fatal crash. Positive train control (PTC) is a technology that allows railroads to use GPS to slow or stop trains in cases from hijacking to human error. The president of Amtrak called PTC “the most important rail safety advancement of our time,” but parts of the funding-starved Northeast Corridor including where the crash took place still lack the system.

These are serious problems in their own right, but our transportation infrastructure funding shortage goes beyond the issues with Amtrak alone. In the 1950s, we spent nearly 5 percent of GDP on transport and water infrastructure projects. Now, while Europe remains at that level and China and other Asian countries are spending close to twice that, U.S. infrastructure spending has plummeted. We are, simply put, falling behind: Amtrak’s ‘high-speed’ Acela train travels an average of 84 mph; a Japanese bullet train topped out last month at 375 mph.

But it’s not just about speed. As we are reminded after each accident, it’s about saving lives. The United States needs to make the necessary investments to remain the world’s greatest superpower. Instead, we have a Republican Congress hell-bent on slashing infrastructure investment and doubling down on cutting Amtrak’s budget.

Meanwhile, a freight train derailed today outside Pittsburgh (there were no injuries). There were 1,241 derailments across the U.S. in 2014.

BOTTOM LINE: Regardless of who or what is at fault in this case, the tragic Amtrak accident that has killed eight people and hurt hundreds more must be a wake-up call to address our nation’s infrastructure crisis. Smart, pro-growth investment in infrastructure is a critical step America must take to prepare for the 21st century, and conservatives should stop standing in the way.

the Senate ~~ CONGRESS 5/15 ~~ the House


Obama Launches DNC Campaign Tour At Illinois State Capitol

The Senate stands adjourned until 2:00pm on Monday, May 18, 2015.

The Senate will not be in session on Friday, May 15, 2015.

Following any Leader remarks, the Senate will be in a period of morning business until 3:00pm. Following morning business, the Senate will resume consideration of H.R.1314 with the time until 5:30pm equally divided between the managers or their designees. At 5:30pm, the Senate will vote in relation to the Brown SA #1242 and Lankford SA #1237 (60 affirmative-vote threshold).

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Last Floor Action:5/14
1:20:56 P.M. – The House adjourned pursuant to a previous special order.

The next meeting is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. on May 18, 2015.

9:00:11 A.M. The House convened, starting a new legislative day.
9:00:28 A.M. Today’s prayer was offered by the House Chaplain, Rev. Patrick J. Conroy.
9:01:33 A.M. POSTPONED PROCEEDINGS ON APPROVAL OF THE JOURNAL – The Chair announced that he had examined the Journal of the last day’s proceedings and had approved it. Mr. Wilson (SC) demanded that the question be put on agreeing to the approval of the Journal and by voice vote, the Chair announced that the ayes had prevailed. Mr. Wilson (SC) objected to the voice vote based upon the absence of a quorum and the Chair postponed further proceedings on the approval of the Journal until a time to be announced.
9:02:17 A.M. PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE – The Chair designated Mr. Dold to lead the Members in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
9:02:22 A.M. ONE MINUTE SPEECHES – The House proceeded with one minute speeches which by direction of the Chair, would be limited to 5 per side of the aisle.
9:06:24 A.M. H.R. 1735 Considered as unfinished business. H.R. 1735 — “To authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2016 for military activities of the Department of Defense and for military construction, to prescribe military personnel strengths for such fiscal year, and for other purposes.”
9:12:08 A.M. H.R. 1735 The House resolved into Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union for further consideration.
9:13:27 A.M. H.R. 1735 Amendments en bloc offered by Mr. Thornberry, comprised of the following amendments offered as en bloc No.6: 90, 91, 96, 99, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, and 118 printed in House Report 114-112.
9:13:49 A.M. H.R. 1735 DEBATE – Pursuant to the provisions of H. Res. 260, the Committee of the Whole proceeded with 20 minutes of debate on the Thornberry en bloc amendment No. 6.
9:28:14 A.M. H.R. 1735 On agreeing to the Thornberry amendments; Agreed to by voice vote.
9:28:50 A.M. H.R. 1735 Amendments en bloc offered by Mr. Thornberry, comprised of the following amendments offered as en bloc No.7: 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 119, 120, 121, 125, 126, and 127 printed in House Report 114-112.
9:28:56 A.M. H.R. 1735 DEBATE – Pursuant to the provisions of H. Res. 260, the Committee of the Whole proceeded with 20 minutes of debate on the Thornberry en bloc amendment No. 7.
9:40:06 A.M. H.R. 1735 On agreeing to the Thornberry amendments; Agreed to by voice vote.
9:41:43 A.M. H.R. 1735 Amendments en bloc offered by Mr. Thornberry, comprised of the following amendments offered as en bloc No.8: 122, 123, 124, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, 134 and 135 printed in House Report 114-112.
9:41:51 A.M. H.R. 1735 DEBATE – Pursuant to the provisions of H. Res. 260, the Committee of the Whole proceeded with 20 minutes of debate on the Thornberry en bloc amendment No. 8.
9:54:12 A.M. H.R. 1735 On agreeing to the Thornberry amendments; Agreed to by voice vote.
10:20:49 A.M. H.R. 1735 On agreeing to the Rohrabacher amendment; Agreed to by recorded vote: 413 – 1, 2 Present (Roll no. 233).
10:25:05 A.M. H.R. 1735 On agreeing to the Lamborn amendment; Agreed to by recorded vote: 235 – 182 (Roll no. 234).
10:28:14 A.M. H.R. 1735 On agreeing to the Blumenauer amendment; Failed by recorded vote: 43 – 375 (Roll no. 235).
10:32:00 A.M. H.R. 1735 On agreeing to the Lucas amendment; Agreed to by recorded vote: 229 – 190 (Roll no. 236).
10:36:16 A.M. H.R. 1735 On agreeing to the Nadler amendment; Failed by recorded vote: 178 – 242 (Roll no. 237).
10:36:22 A.M. H.R. 1735 The House rose from the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union to report H.R. 1735.
10:36:41 A.M. H.R. 1735 The previous question was ordered pursuant to the rule.
10:36:50 A.M. H.R. 1735 The House adopted the amendment in the nature of a substitute as agreed to by the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union.
10:37:24 A.M. H.R. 1735 Mr. Gallego moved to recommit with instructions to the Committee on Armed Services.
10:37:44 A.M. H.R. 1735 Floor summary: DEBATE – The House proceeded with 10 minutes of debate on the Gallego motion to recommit with instructions. The instructions contained in the motion seek to require the bill to be reported back to the House with an amendment to provide a 2.3% pay increase for fiscal year 2016 for members of the uniformed services. Additionally, the motion would ensure that the Secretary of Defense guarantee members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps continue to receive compensation for their service in defense of the United States despite any government shutdown after September 30, 2015.
10:48:47 A.M. H.R. 1735 The previous question on the motion to recommit with instructions was ordered without objection.
10:55:43 A.M. H.R. 1735 On motion to recommit with instructions Failed by recorded vote: 184 – 234 (Roll no. 238).
11:02:13 A.M. H.R. 1735 On passage Passed by recorded vote: 269 – 151 (Roll no. 239).
11:02:14 A.M. H.R. 1735 Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection.
11:02:16 A.M. H.R. 1735 The title of the measure was amended. Agreed to without objection.
11:02:58 A.M. On approving the Journal Agreed to by voice vote.
11:02:59 A.M. H.R. 1735 The Clerk was authorized to correct section numbers, punctuation, and cross references, and to make other necessary technical and conforming corrections in the engrossment of H.R. 1735.
11:03:54 A.M. Mr. Thornberry asked unanimous consent that when the House adjourns on Friday, May 15, 2015, it adjourn to meet on Monday, May 18, 2015 at noon for morning-hour debate and 2 p.m. for legislative business. Agreed to without objection.
11:04:56 A.M. Congressional-Executive Commission on the People’s Republic of China – Pursuant to 22 U.S.C. 6913, and the order of the House of January 6, 2015 the Speaker appointed the following members of the House to the Congressional-Executive Commission on the People’s Republic of China: Mr. Franks of AZ, Mr. Pittenger and Mr. Hultgren.
11:05:31 A.M. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe – Pursuant to 22 U.S.C. 3003, and the order of the House on January 6, 2015 the Speaker appointed the following members of the House to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe: Mr. Aderholt, Mr. Pitts, Mr. Hultgren and Mr. Burgess.
11:06:10 A.M. ONE MINUTE SPEECHES – The House proceeded with further one minute speeches.
11:21:59 A.M. SPECIAL ORDER SPEECHES – The House has concluded all anticipated legislative business and has proceeded to Special Order speeches.
1:20:47 P.M. Mr. Gohmert moved that the House do now adjourn.
1:20:55 P.M. On motion to adjourn Agreed to by voice vote.
1:20:56 P.M. The House adjourned pursuant to a previous special order. The next meeting is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. on May 18, 2015.

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