President Trump should have been paying close attention to the biggest economic crisis of his term so far.
Last week, Amtrak, the federal railroad, disrupted commutes for the 210,339 people who depend on Penn Station to get to work from New Jersey and Long Island. Trump says he want to fix America’s infrastructure — but time is already running out.
There are many to blame for last week’s disaster. Amtrak let “weak timbers” underneath a rail deteriorate so badly they led to a New Jersey Transit train crash last Monday morning — the second derailment in 10 days.
Because the crash happened near a switch, it knocked out a third of Penn’s capacity. Amtrak blew its deadline for fixing everything by Friday — prompting New York’s LIRR to send out a 5 a.m. e-mail cancelling 10 more trains.
Penn Station is an unforgiving space for mistakes. With New York adding jobs faster than New Jersey, more people are coming into Manhattan — with ridership up 74 percent in the past 20 years.
“Penn itself is a huge chokepoint,” says Amtrak chief Wick Moorman, whose previous experience was in the private-freight railroad business. “This derailment of three cars that all stayed inline and upright” and still knocked out service “just shows you how vulnerable this place is.”
Inspectors misjudged how long the timbers, perhaps 20 years old, would hold out....
Photo by Drew Angerer / Getty