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Amtrak Derailment Prompts Questions On Infrastructure Funding and Damage Restrictions

by Countable | 12.19.17

What’s the story?

The derailment of an Amtrak train in Washington State on Monday has raised a lot of questions. Among them, the issue of Amtrak funding, as well as the inadequacies of laws restricting damage amounts for victims.

President Trump expressed his condolences for the victims on Monday, and pointed to his upcoming infrastructure plan as an answer for preventing such tragedies:

However, as noted by ABC News, the track involved in the incident on Monday wasn’t crumbling. It had, in fact, just been rebuilt as part of a multimillion dollar project.

The president’s budget for 2018, in fact, "would restrict any federal funding for the Federal Transit Administration's capital investment program to already-approved transit projects." It also slashes federal subsidies to Amtrak for long-distance routes, though the Seattle to Portland route involved in Monday’s derailment is not considered long-distance.

The president's infrastructure plan relies on state and local governments raising the vast majority of the funds to cover the costs of projects.

Monday's derailment has also again raised questions about the 1997 Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act, which sets a $200 million dollar damage cap on all victim payments in any given incident. According to NBC News, a judge estimated that a 2008 derailment in California with similar injury counts would have reasonably required $350 million in damages to cover all related costs.

Following a 2015 Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia Congress passed legislation to increase the cap to $295 million, but only for that single incident. The current derailment incident is still subject to the 1997 law, unless Congress takes legislative action.

What do you think?

Is an infrastructure plan the answer to preventing incidents like the derailment on Monday? Is President Trump’s infrastructure plan the right plan? What about the law that creates a damage cap for victims? Is that fair? Should Congress do something about that?

Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: HuffPost Politics via Twitter)

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