Yesterday, my heart stopped as I heard on the news that yet another Amtrak derailment in Washington State took the lives of up to six people and injured scores of others. It brought back floods of horrific memories when I heard on May 12, 2015, that my beloved daughter, Rachel, was one of the victims on the Amtrak derailment of a train from Philadelphia to New York City. Both accidents and all the lives of the dead and injured could have been avoided if PTC, Positive Train Control, had been installed and activated.
How many more children need to lose their parents? My 5-year-old grandson, Jacob, does not remember his mom, her hopes and dreams for his future, and the once intact family that shared so much. How many men and women need to lose their spouses or loved ones before we demand of our elected officials in Washington, D.C. that this technology be installed yesterday? The deadline for the railroads to do this work has been pushed further into the future, despite the fact that their charge to install this equipment was made years ago.
I was outraged and saddened to learn that this is still an issue. And now more families have holes in their hearts. Train officials have known for decades that PTC works, yet I fear the railroad lobbyists have been far too influential in delaying spending the needed dollars to make these changes.
And I can’t help but connect these dots to the short-sightedness of the tax reform bills that were passed by the U.S. House and Senate yesterday. We are increasing our federal deficit which will directly affect not only health and human services, but the resources we have available to maintain our infrastructure, like trains supported by our tax dollars.
So this is really personal. I want our congressional delegation to make more stringent timelines for safety changes. Because, next time, it could be their daughter, son, mom or dad who loses their life.
And I want folks to understand that tax policy and change matters. That decisions made at both the federal and state levels really do have life-altering effects. That people’s lives truly are at stake.
And mostly importantly, lives didn’t have to be lost if government did the right thing. Amtrak clearly didn’t learn a thing after the 2015 derailment since they still have not reached 100% compliance. And Congress should be putting forth the same effort to push for this change to save lives as they have to pass their tax plan. But unfortunately, the revenue lost through the tax plan will make PTC and other important investments even less likely, putting even more lives at risk.
— Gilda Z. Jacobs