Boardman: “It’s time to start building.”
Amtrak President Joe Boardman was a participant in a forum today at the National Press Club and he cited a number of infrastructure projects that need to be addressed.
With all due respect, Joe, most of them needed attention years ago.
We know that the two tunnels under the Hudson River connecting New Jersey (and a couple of dozen other states) with New York City and New England are more than 100 years old. if the tunnels were to close for whatever reason, the estimated cost to the regional economy would be one-hundred million dollars a day. A day!!
We know that trains traveling to or or passing through Chicago, whether hauling freight or passengers, face rail traffic jams ever day. And no wonder: Chicago is a mishmash of tracks, originally laid a hundred-plus years ago by a half dozen different railroads with no thought given to any needs but their own. Today, financial costs due to lost time are virtually incalculable.
The frustrating thing is that almost everyone has seen it coming for years. No, for decades! Maintenance of the infrastructure along the vital Northeast Corridor has been nibbled at, but mostly deferred to the point that Boardman now says that it will take something like $150 billion to bring everything—electrical, trackage, tunnels and bridges—up to state-of-the-art standards.
Every year Amtrak is forced to go with its hand out to Congress in an attempt to justify what everyone agrees is an already inadequate budget. Sometimes Amtrak is halfway through their fiscal year before they know what their budget is actually going to be. Try running your business or your household like that!
Let’s give a little perspective to Amtrak’s bare-bones needs: their subsidy from the federal government, inadequate though it may be, has been running around $1.4 billion a year. The Defense Department is spending four hundred billion dollars on just one program, the F-35 fighter jet. It’s our latest-and-greatest and the plane is seven years behind schedule and still isn’t operational.
Americans take more than 30 million trips on Amtrak every year. We’re traveling over track that needs to be upgraded, we’re riding in 30-year-old rail cars, and we’re sitting on sidings for hours because slow freights are getting priority.
And earlier this year, 147 members of the United States House of Representatives—every one a Republican—voted for a bill that would have killed Amtrak altogether.
What more does it take for the general public to get pissed off?