Train Derailment Tragedy and Infrastructure

train derailment photo

The train derailment in Washington State, regardless of the cause is a terrible tragedy.   In simple terms, those whose lives were taken as well as the numerous number of passengers that were seriously injured should give us pause to think about how fragile life is.

Soon, the story and the broad discussion will disappear from the headlines and only those effected will continue to live the effects of this disaster.

There will be the investigations, there will be the lawsuits, there will be the reality for many of those who were injured that they will be facing ongoing physical and emotional challenges.

Incidentally, myself and members of my family live within a few miles of the accident site and if not daily, frequently drive under the overpass where the accident happened.  As with everyone else, I never, in my wildest dreams would have thought this would happen there.  For me, over the last forty years, whenever I see a train crossing over the freeway, it is barely moving.

Hopefully, we will learn from this incident and implement remedies that will ensure that this doesn’t happen again.  As a result of the lack our federal government’s timely enforcement of a regulation that should have already been put in place to protect the passengers, they will have to assume their role as being complicit in this particular event.

I really do appreciate the President’s comments yesterday regarding this tragedy and his condolences to the families of those who lost their lives.

Instead of adding  self serving political remarks including disparaging comments about the terrible shape of our infrastructure, he unknowingly passed up an opportunity to point out the positive and ongoing infrastructure work that is being done in Washington State (including the local and statewide railroads).

As of right now, Interstate Five is undergoing several major improvement projects.  Interestingly, the most current construction basically starts in the Nisqually Valley where the train derailment happened and stretches all the way north to Seattle.  It seems like the largest freeway improvement project is on a stretch of the highway that runs through the city of Tacoma which is the largest metropolitan city In the state behind Seattle.  There are new bridges, overpasses, on ramps, off ramps, collector distributor lanes etc. that are being constructed.  Some of these projects are nearing completion and are having a major positive impact on the traffic needs brought on by the massive growth in and around the city.

The Seattle area is also undergoing major development and highway improvements. They would in part reflect an investment in the future to alleviate the effects of an almost certain catastrophe caused by a likely, massive earthquake.  A couple of these improvements include the replacement of a floating bridge that spans a large lake connecting Seattle to the communities located east of the city.  There is also a major project happening to remove and replace a very old and seriously deteriorated and crumbling elevated highway that runs through the heart of the city.

These and many other highway improvements are heavily funded by the tax payers of the state along with modest federal financial support.

As I see it, Washington state, as with the rest of the country needs to prioritize and fund the replacement of old substandard and dangerous bridges and roadways.  Also, there are so many infrastructure issues we are now facing from utilities to roads to airports to maritime and many more that will require massive dollars to complete.  Personally, I don’t understand why we waited until now to do anything about it.  Rather than investing in these projects over time, most of the country has to face a significant crisis before the appropriate attention rises to the surface forcing action.

At the end of the day, the train wreck in Nisqually is not reflective of a deteriorating infrastructure.  Although the specific cause has not been determined, it would seem that one human’s actions and negligence changed the lives of all those who were involved.  As far as the companies that own and operate this railroad, why would they put business before the safety of the public when it comes to applying safeguards to avoid these situations?  Since this particular train is just one of many constantly in operation around the country that rely on individuals to be at the controls, I think quick and effective changes need to be put in place immediately.


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