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Amtrak Budget Stakes: "Safer Trains and Fewer Clogged Highways"

The Senate Appropriations Committee gets back to work on Amtrak's budget, and Connecticut Senators says the issue not only impacts train safety, but traffic jams as well. Credit - Wikimedia A. Moriera
The Senate Appropriations Committee gets back to work on Amtrak's budget, and Connecticut Senators says the issue not only impacts train safety, but traffic jams as well. Credit - Wikimedia A. Moriera
May 26, 2015

HARTFORD, Conn. - As folks head back to work after the long weekend, both of Connecticut's Senators say the rails would be a whole lot safer and the roads less clogged if Amtrak were properly funded.

Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) says Japan's Bullet train hurtles along at 200 miles per hour but has never had a fatal accident. He says the same is true in France because both nations have made significant investments in railroad infrastructure. But he says Congress has left Amtrak with a $21 billion backlog in badly needed upgrades.

"We've made the opposite decision, and so it should come as no shock that every couple months, we are going to turn on the TV news and see another crash another set of fatalities on the Northeast corridor line," says Murphy.

Last week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said it was stupid for Democrats to suggest that Republican budget cuts might have contributed to the Amtrak derailment that left eight dead near Philadelphia. Murphy joined seven other Northeast Senate Democrats in calling on the Senate to fully support Amtrak's funding request.

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D. Conn.) says many of his constituents likely did some fist shaking while stuck in traffic jams over the long holiday weekend but he says fewer people would be driving if the rail system were safer and more dependable.

"I'm hoping they will direct those curses and those fists at John Boehner and the Republicans in the House that are blocking effective Amtrak transportation," he says.

Senator Murphy says 20 percent of the nation's Gross Domestic Product is housed in the Northeast corridor, so a wreck there has ramifications for all Americans.

"Every single one of our colleagues should care about this, not just because there are people dying, but because the entire country's economy stalls when that line stops functioning," Murphy says.

President Obama's budget includes $500 million in capital improvement for the Northeast Corridor, and Murphy says that's a step in the right direction, but it's not enough to take care of the backlog.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - CT