However, even our freight railroad systems could use some upgrading here and there. For example, in Martinez, California, a trestle bridge is worrying local residents. Apparently, when trains cross the bridge (with very dangerous cargo, by the way) the locals hear "loud creaks and rattles" coming from its century-old, rusty bridge supports. Hmmm...yes, that might be a cause for some degree of concern. ("Aging Railway Infrastructure Raises Safety Concerns As Bay Area Readies To Receive Dramatic Increase Of Bakken Crude Oil, Part 1 Of 3," CBS Sf Bay Area, December 29, 2014).
Amtrak also receives state-level funding, but many state revenue systems are also dysfunctional. Hence, with both federal and state governments in disarray, at least one historic Amtrak route seems to be in danger of elimination (see "Lawmakers seek funds to save Southwest Chief route," The Santa Fe New Mexican, January 21, 2015).
U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Barbara Mikulski are trying to bolster America's railroads (as well as the rest of our infrastructure) with their "Rebuild America Act." Commenting on the bill, Sanders said, "Every day, [the American people] drive on roads with unforgiving potholes, over bridges that are in disrepair and wait in traffic jams on congested roads. They see railroads and subways that arrive late and that are overcrowded. They see airports bursting at the seams. They worry that a local levee could fail in a storm" ("Sen. Sanders files $1T infrastructure bill," The Hill, January 27, 2015, emphasis added).
Unfortunately, with Republicans now in complete control of Congress, the "Rebuild America Act" faces less chance of survival than a goldfish dropped into an aquarium full of snakeheads. Republicans have made it clear that they do not like the idea of investing in America's infrastructure (see yesterday's blog post). Our only hope is that the Koch brothers will order their employees (a.k.a., Republican and Tea Party politicians) to support the bill. But I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.
New Deal policymakers understood the value of America's infrastructure, and invested heavily in it. With respect to railroads, for example, WPA workers built many railway tunnels and, "Through the cooperation of the Railroad Retirement Board, many WPA workers were hired on railroad track jobs" (The Final Report on the WPA Program, pp. 53 and 93.)
America's railroad infrastructure needs a New Deal...or, in the absence of a New Deal, Congress could at least pass the Sanders and Mikulski "Rebuild America Act."