Happy Thanksgiving! Happy Black Friday! Happy Small Business Saturday! Happy Cyber Monday!
Hopefully you and yours’ were able to spend a few quality moments together before engaging in that most cherished of holiday traditions…shopping. Nothing speaks to the very fiber of the holidays like storming the ramparts of the local Wal-Mart to grapple for overpriced items artificially reduced to encourage such frenzy. Just as the pilgrims could not wait for their Native American guests to leave so they could flood the local general store in search of bargains on hard tack and corn meal; we too understand the true meaning of the holidays.
But we digress…
Unfortunately for the souls traveling on the 5:54 AM train from Poughkeepsie to New York City, this holiday season will be remembered for something quite different than turkey and holiday bargains. A commuter train carrying 100 passengers jumped the tracks on Sunday killing four and injuring sixty. Survivors who frequent the route said that the train was moving at a much higher speed than normal as it entered the Bronx. There are reports that the incident took place near the area where another train derailed this past July. Officials are still investigating.
As expected, the New York media went crazy…for nothing sets the world’s most self aggrandizing media on fire like an incident in their self proclaimed “greatest city on earth.” Once they were able to stop hyperventilating they searched for something, anything on which to focus their incredulity; settling on the city’s expansive train system.
A torrent of criticism rained down on the city’s transportation system. Liberals and conservatives crossed ideological lines to trash the city’s infrastructure. “Worn, loose rusty rails,” “Chucks of concrete are falling on the tracks,” “Dirty,” “Unsafe,” “Inefficient” “Third world system.”
Setting aside for a moment the emotional outrage…they are correct in their assessment of our nation’s infrastructure. 85%-90% of our country’s infrastructure was built between 1950 and 1970. It is old, outdated, inefficient and in many cases, dangerous. Many of our highways and bridges are rated “functionally obsolete.” Ask any world traveler and they will tell you that our infrastructure lags so far behind the other industrialized nations that returning home to our airports and rail systems is like returning to a third world country.
On August 1, 2007 more than 100 vehicles were traveling over a bridge on I-35W when the bridge collapsed plunging motorists into the Mississippi River. 13 people died that day. 145 were injured.
But that was Minnesota. The outcry lasted for but a minute…and quickly faded. Yes, studies were done to determine the quality and condition of our infrastructure. We learned enough to know that it was bad…outdated, inefficient and dangerous. We learned that the greatest nation in the world could not safely or efficiently move its people and products from one place to the next. Then we did nothing.
Our economy is struggling. We desperately need more jobs. We desperately need to modernize our infrastructure if we are to compete with the rest of the world. A comprehensive transportation bill would go a long way toward curing those economic ills.
Will the tragedy of this train crash in our largest city motivate us to tackle this very real problem? Will the suffering of those poor souls motivate us to get off our collective asses and do what is necessary to compete in a world economy? Can something good come from their suffering?
Or will we just go shopping?