Photo Courtesy of Sen. Schumer’s Office
Schumer said he’s making a new push to prioritize investing in the Northeast Corridor rail system “before derailments and maddening delays happen more often than not.”
By Forum Staff
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer on Monday announced that he is making a new push to prioritize investing in rail systems, including Amtrak, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and Long Island Rail Road, before derailments and delays “happen more often than not.”
Schumer’s comments come on the heels of two derailments at Penn Station over a recent two-week period: A New Jersey Transit train derailed during last Monday morning’s rush hour; and on Friday, March 24, massive delays and cancellations were the result of what Amtrak labeled a “minor” derailment of one of its trains at the hub.
Schumer on Monday noted that Amtrak is facing an over $28 billion state-of-good repair backlog, which could have contributed to the maintenance issues that caused the derailments over the past two weeks. Additionally, other regional transit systems including the MTA and NJT also have serious maintenance backlogs. Schumer attributed the widespread maintenance issues plaguing the Northeast Corridor to a lack of funding, and called for a major increase in rail and transit maintenance funding to help address the issue.
“Maddening delays for rail commuters across the region, from Long Island to New Jersey, have exposed the repair backlog like never before,” Schumer said. “Even the smallest of maintenance issues, left unchecked, can become the reason for the next big delay, or worse, disaster. For far too long, Amtrak has been tremendously undercapitalized to the point that they now have an over $28B State-of-Good-Repair Backlog. In addition, transit systems across the region lack the necessary funding to make much needed repairs. So, simply put, no matter how hard Amtrak, or other rail systems, work to prioritize safety, because of a lack of funding, some projects and improvements are just not getting done.”
New York’s senior senator said that a plan to make the infrastructure-improvement investments exists but has not made any traction yet in Congress. Specifically, Schumer highlighted his blueprint which called for a major investment of over $180 billion over the next 10 years to repair aging rail and transit systems, and specifically $5 billion a year to Amtrak, which would help alleviate delays.
Schumer went on to characterize rail and transit improvements as “a major priority in any federal infrastructure legislation.” He also said just providing basic increases to Amtrak’s capital account in the annual appropriations process would be a major lift to helping address some of the issues. Schumer said that if Republicans don’t pass that infrastructure bill, the country will need more immediate increases in capital funding for Amtrak to address the state of good repair backlog. Schumer on Monday vowed to make rail safety a top priority.
“We learned this lesson in New York in the 1970’s when we systematically disinvested in the MTA and the system broke down. We had delays, derailments, dirty trains and ridership fell to historic lows,” Schumer noted. “But when we made the change and invested into the system, ridership went through the roof and maintenance vastly improved. When you delay maintenance, it only leads to disaster.”