The Amtrak Crash: When Government is Ideological Instead of Lawful and Logical

Seton Motley | Less Government |
For Amtrak – A Perpetual Stop Sign

Last week’s deadly Amtrak crash was absolutely horrendous.

For Democrats and their fellow Big Government advocates – it was a serious crisis they are trying desperately to not let go to waste.

They first tried to say the cause of the crash was a lack of government money. Except Amtrak has received over $30 billion since its 1970 inception. The last spending bill signed by President Barack Obama included $1.4 billion for Amtrak.

It gets even bigger:

Never mind that Amtrak has pumped $2.6 billion into the 456-mile track called the northeast corridor over the last decade. The eight states along this route that connects Boston to Washington through New York and Philadelphia supplied another $2.4 billion….

Those are huge budgetary coin infusions. And lest we forget the 2009 $878+ billion alleged “Stimulus.”

According to, Amtrak received $1,295,804,688 from President Barack Obama’s stimulus law through a grant from the Department of Transportation (DOT) filed under “Other Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction.

The grant noted that roughly 50 percent of the money went to infrastructure improvements” in the Northeast Corridor.

Steadfastly impervious to facts, Democrats pressed on – and tried to get specific.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Thursday slammed Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for saying there is no link between Amtrak’s funding and this week’s derailment of a train that left eight people dead.

“Speaker Boehner’s comments are patently false,” Schumer said in a statement. “Experts have made clear that Positive Train Control [PTC] could have prevented the tragedy in Philadelphia.

The PTC system would automatically recognize whether a train is speeding and stop it. Congress has mandated that the system be put in place by the end of the year, and it was not in place on the section of railroad north of Philadelphia where Tuesday night’s crash took place.

Except yet again – Reality ruins the Big Government advocates’ best laid plans.

In 2008, Congress ordered the installation of what are known as positive train control systems, which can detect an out-of-control, speeding train and automatically slow it down.

A little more Reality.

According to a top congressional aide, Amtrak told the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday that the PTC system was installed along the section of track outside Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station, where the crash occurred, but it was not operating.

The aide said Amtrak informed the committee it has encountered delays turning the PTC on throughout its system because of the need to get the bandwidths required to upgrade the radios to a higher MHz, which improves reliability.

The system was mandated by law in 2008. It’s 2015. What the heck has the government been doing?

Railroad officials said Thursday that installation of the safety system on tracks across the country was also hampered for more than a year by longstanding (Federal Communications Commission) F.C.C. rules that required environmental and preservation reviews before the safety system’s antennas could be installed in historic areas or near tribal lands.

Government being ideological – rather than logical.

But officials at the F.C.C. said those reviews, which were relaxed at the behest of members of Congress in 2014, were not specifically responsible for Amtrak delays along the largely urban Northeast Corridor because new antennas were not required in that region.

I would bet lots of money the FCC’s ridiculous regulations were in fact a problem. Given regulations cost the private sector nearly $2 trillion last year. But they’re magically not a problem for Amtrak? If not – why would Congress have demanded the FCC relax them?

Where else did the FCC screw up?

The commission also defended its handling of Amtrak’s petition to acquire wireless frequencies, asserting that it had taken Amtrak three years to negotiate the purchase and that the commission had approved the deal within days.

What an absurd sentence – written by the New York Times. Amtrak can’t negotiate by themselves. The FCC was sitting across the table – for three years. They had a hand in the prolonged, pronounced delay.

All the while, on what has the Obama FCC instead been almost myopically focused?

FCC Approves Controversial ‘Net Neutrality’ Rules

December 22, 2010

FCC Approves New Net Neutrality Rules

February 26, 2015

Government being ideological – rather than lawful.

Court (Unanimously) Strikes Down (2010) Net Neutrality Rules

Obama’s FCC should have known Net Neutrality is illegal – because George W. Bush’s FCC tried to impose it.

Appeals Court (Unanimously) Overturns (2008) FCC Rule on Net Neutrality

April 07, 2010

Years and years wasted tilting at illegal, ideological windmills.

Time that would have been much better spent on things the FCC is actually supposed to do.

Like doing its part to get Amtrak’s PTC safety system up and running.

Editor’s Note: This first appeared in Red State and Human Events.

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