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Booker proposes railroad improvement package

Glenn Townes | 5/18/2015, noon
Just recently before the devastating Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia on May 12 that killed eight people and injured dozens of ...
NTSB Recorder Specialist Cassandra Johnson works with officials on the scene of the Amtrak Train #188 Derailment in Philadelphia, PA. Wikipedia photo

Just recently before the devastating Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia on May 12 that killed eight people and injured dozens of other, Sen. Cory Booker introduced legislation to improve railroad safety between New York, New Jersey and portions of eastern Pennsylvania.

Cory Booker

Cory Booker

In a move that some say may have foreshadowed the Amtrak disaster, executives from Amtrak and other travel industry officials —at the request of Booker—spoke in front of the Subcommittee for Transportation in Washington earlier this month to advocate legislation that would essentially overhaul the heavily traveled New York, New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania railroad corridor. Booker said remnants of Superstorm Sandy and antiquated sections of track have badly damaged the railway between Newark, New York and Philadelphia. “{The railroad} is a major artery to the body of our country,” Booker said. “We cannot allow it to wither and die or wait until another crisis.”

A funding-authorization law that, among other things, expanded financing for building and repair initiatives for rail carriers expired in 2013 and has yet to be reinstated. As a result, several major projects, including Amtrak's Gateway Project—a multi-million dollar plan to build more tracks and rail tunnels in 10 to 15 years has been delayed.

In a related matter, Booker condemned last week's Amtrak disaster. The onsite investigation into the crash that occurred just outside of Philadelphia on a train traveling between Washington DC to New York City was completed on Friday. Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said the train was traveling more than 100 mph—well in excess of the speed limit, surged and derailed on a sharp turn. Booker said expanded technology could have possibly prevented the accident. “Years ago we had the technology to really control our trains with a lot greater safety,” he said. Booker added, “Our biggest challenge is implementing it through significant resources.