The top Senate Democrat from Amtrak's Northeast Corridor says Speaker John A. Boehner is denying facts about the circumstances of Tuesday evening's crash outside Philadelphia.
"Speaker Boehner's comments are patently false. Experts have made clear that Positive Train Control could have prevented the tragedy in Philadelphia," Sen. Charles E. Schumer said. "It is simply a fact that insufficient funding for Amtrak has delayed the installation of PTC, and to deny a connection between the accident and underfunding Amtrak is to deny reality."
The New York Democrat was responding to comments Boehner, an Ohio Republican, made at a news conference earlier in the day in response to a question about a move by the House Appropriations Committee to reduce Amtrak funding, which he cut off.
"Are you really going to ask? That's a stupid question," Boehner said, criticizing Democrats connecting the tragic derailment to federal spending on passenger rail. "Listen, you know they started this yesterday 'It's all about funding, It's all about funding.' Well, obviously it's not about funding."
Senate Appropriations ranking member Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., joined in criticizing the House Appropriations Committee's GOP majority Thursday.
"It's outrageous that less than 24 hours after this terrible crash, the House voted to cut Amtrak funding by almost 20 percent. This is not the time for partisan bickering or nitpicking on the budget. Lives have been lost. Lives have been turned upside down. Commerce has been disrupted," Mikulski said in her own statement. "This horrible crash is a wake-up call on the need to invest in our transportation infrastructure. I've consistently fought for funding of Amtrak infrastructure and rail safety. Now is the time to fund Amtrak."
According to the NTSB, the train was traveling at 106 miles per hour before it crashed, far in excess of the speed limit in the area, which features one of the most significant curves between Boston and Washington, D.C. The deployment of Positive Train Control could have helped control the speed, and Amtrak chief Joseph Boardman said Thursday the system will be deployed by the end of 2015, complying with existing federal requirements.
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