If there is any good to come out of the horrific crash of the Amtrak commuter train in Philadelphia, it will start a conversation and lead to a long needed overhaul and expansion of our passenger rail transit system.
Riding a train is as American as apple pie. Or it used to be. Over the past decades, passenger rail transportation in this country has been dying a slow death. It’s not because we don’t need it, quite the contrary. Few would argue that freight rail is still essential to our economic health and growth. But passenger rail service, thus Amtrak, is just as important.
Thirty years ago, George and I took our children to New York City via Amtrak. Aside from my son and I suffering from motion sickness from all the jerking and rocking, it was an overall good experience for our family. The trains were very clean and the dining car was a real dining experience complete with white table linen and tasseled menus. This past year George and I went to Washington, D. C. on Amtrak. I had expected a lot of improvements in thirty years, both electronically and aesthetically. It appeared no upgrades had been made to the cars in all that passage of time. The dining car was my biggest disappointment. I’ve seen better “food trucks.” And the ride itself was even more shaky and jerky than I had remembered. I felt I was endangering my life to journey to the bathroom.
So who is responsible for the neglect of Amtrak? First, we should point to the politicians in Washington. They control the funding of this entity. A prime example is the GOP House Appropriations Committee voted the very next day after the horrific derailment to cut funding for Amtrak by 15%. I’m not saying that the Republicans are more to blame than the Democrats. The Republican lawmakers aren’t motivated to make passenger rail service priority because their constituents don’t generally live in cities serviced by Amtrak. Democrats have long touted infrastructure improvement but have failed to make the case for paying for it to the American people.
Second, all Americans are responsible by not recognizing and demanding that high-speed rail be added to our infrastructure. This is the cheapest, most efficient way to get polluting cars off the road, open up more job market areas, and to increase our economy by adding jobs and development. Our lack of infrastructure improvement in this country is embarrassing and unseemly for a country that prides itself on being the “best in the world.” Our country has budgeted 1.7 billion for Amtrak this year. The Chinese budget is 128 billion this year.
Imagine. A bullet-train from coast to coast. At the very least, imagine a high-speed rail from Savannah, to Macon, to Atlanta. Let’s don’t say we can’t do it. Let’s don’t say it will take too long to build. Back in 1863, our forefathers sought a way to move goods and make transportation quicker, more flexible, and cheaper. They built the 1,907- mile Transcontinental Railway in FIVE YEARS!
If you’re looking for a fun way to enjoy Memorial Day weekend, come to High Falls. The High Falls Volunteer Fire Department will be holding it’s annual yard sale and BBQ cookout on Saturday, May 23rd. This is a great way to support this organization that is crucial to our community. Also, High Falls State Park has lots of activities planned for Memorial Day weekend. One that sounds like an adventure for the entire family is the Twilight Paddle on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night. It is a three-mile guided canoe trip to Buck Creek for adults and children 8 and over. $15 includes boat and gear. Call High Falls State Park for more info and to make reservations at 478-993-3053.
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