According to the Associated Press, among other sources, a bill full of safety proposals in reaction to the recent LA Metrolink crash has been pass in the House this week. While the included measures, such as positive train control technology, would certainly contribute to safer trains (already safe compared to planes and autos), the bill importantly includes previous Amtrak reauthorization legislation that has been tangled up in committee negotiations. The railroads have concerns that congressional deadlines for safety technology may not be feasible, and I don’t feel qualified to comment on that, but if the political will spurred by this tragic and preventable accident can help Amtrak recieve its much needed funding increases, I’m all for it. From the AP:
The package wraps in legislation reauthorizing Amtrak for five years and providing $13 billion for the carrier. Some of that money would go to matching grants to help states set up or expand rail service.
The Amtrak portion of the legislation also establishes a program for private companies to bid to develop high-speed rail corridors on the East Coast, a private sector component pushed by Republicans who have been wary of what they’ve seen as ever-growing subsidies to Amtrak.
Amtrak’s previous authorization expired in 2002. The carrier’s supporters say a new authorization will allow Amtrak to make long-range plans and take advantage of what they say is a growing appetite for passenger rail.
“As Amtrak ridership continues to hit record levels, our bill gives passenger rail the resources it needs to meet the nation’s increased demands,” said Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J. Lautenberg authored the Senate versions of the rail safety and Amtrak bills, both of which had previously passed the House and Senate by wide margins. Lawmakers hadn’t reached agreement on final package until late Tuesday.