Congress Should Enable Amtrak to Travel Faster than 100 mph

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Congress Should Enable Amtrak to Travel Faster than 100 mph on a Safe, High-Performance Rail System

Statement by John Olivieri, 21st Century Transportation Campaign Director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group on the May 12th Amtrak derailment along a curved stretch of track near Philadelphia. Reports indicate the train was traveling 106 miles per hour on a curve designated as safe for travel at 50 mph.

“This is a horrible tragedy, and our condolences go to those whose family and friends have been lost or injured. Events like this must be prevented.

 “Our policy makers should take the long view. We need commitment to creating a world-class passenger rail system where traveling 106 miles per hour would be seen as shockingly slow, not fast. High-performance tracks and other technology should enable substantially faster speeds.

“America lags far behind our international competitors when it comes to our passenger rail system. In Japan and much of Europe, traveling at 106 mph is not particularly fast, and truly high speeds are closer to 200 mph. Japan’s bullet trains crisscross their nation with utter reliability. They have never had a fatality.

  “On America’s major highways, we do not accept dangerously sharp turns. We invest what it takes to ensure vehicles can travel at their cruising speeds.  The Northeast Corridor is one of the world’s densest population areas and home to tremendous economic activity with ever-expanding demand for rail travel. Over the long term, we should no more accept a 50 mph curve along this rail corridor than we would a permanent 15 mph zone on the Interstate.”

You can read U.S. PIRG’s latest report here (link) exposing misunderstandings about transportation funding that lead to misallocation of resources and an endless lurching from one funding crisis to the next.