The STB Makes a Decision. (Whoopie!)

I’m tempted to just say, “Screw the whole thing!” and go fishing.

The Surface Transportation Board’s “decision”—the one which we had hoped would have some real meat on it—is to have another study done. Meanwhile, the freight railroads will still be making Amtrak trains wait while their freight trains proceed, notwithstanding the fact that the law clearly says Amtrak trains must be given “preference”. 

The Surface Transportation Board could have ruled that the freight railroads must comply with the “preference” law, but the freights have asked that any decision be delayed. And, of course, whatever they want . . . 

The thing is, it’s been fifty-three years!

That’s how long the freight railroads have pretty much ignored the federal law that says (1) Amtrak has to pay for the use of the freight railroads’ tracks, but (2) Amtrak trains must be given “preference” over the freight trains when running on those tracks.

Several official entities have the necessary authority to lay down the law and enforce compliance by the freight railroads. The most liklely one is the Surface Transportation Board. They can say to the freights, “OK, guys . . . the party’s over. As of this morning you have to obey the law you’ve been ignoring for fifty years and start giving preference to Amtrak trains.”

Instead, in a decision ponderously rendered with more than 16,000 words, the Surface Transportation Board has said “what we need is a study of this specific issue.” And so the freight railroads can continue to avoid complying with the law for at least another two years . . . at which time, they will be prepared to go with another reason why another issue needs another study that will drag everything out for another two years.

And that study would also be useful if there’s any chance Congress might become concerned that the freight railroads have been ignoring the law for more than 50 years . . . well, chill out! Anonymous campaign contributions are for making potential problems like that go away. 

And there you have it: a short course on how issues affecting the public interest are handled in a modern democratic capitalist society. Make you proud?