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How US railroads will use their new infrastructure funding

Congress has allocated $1.4 billion to updating infrastructure and improving safety on U.S. railroads.
How US railroads will use their new infrastructure funding
Posted at 4:08 PM, Oct 02, 2023

The remains of a rail car at the Bailey Rail Yard in North Platte, Nebraska are a reminder of an explosion that happened on Sept. 14, and sent highly toxic perchloric acid into the air. No one was hurt, and evacuation orders were quickly lifted — but the occurrence isn't a tale of what was, but rather, one of what could have been.

"You know, so many communities living around railroad facilities are now asking 'are we going to be the next community, the next household to have our day or lives upended by some sort of railroad incident?'" said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. "It's yet another example of why it's so urgent."

Buttigieg was one of the key leaders in getting Congress to allocate $1.4 billion to railroad improvements nationwide. The money will fund 75 projects in 35 states as they repair bridges, modernize equipment, and update safety features to help freight and people alike, particularly with the East Palestine, Ohio, derailment so close in the rearview.

"You know, I think the public attention to railroad safety that came after the East Palestine derailment in Ohio is helping to propel the will to do even more," Buttigieg  said. "Yes, we were already at work on these fiscal infrastructure improvements and we were already at work on a number of safety improvements, but I think this has really galvanized a sense that there needs to be more."

SEE MORE: White House orders continued support for East Palestine derailment

SCRIPPS NEWS' DAN GROSSMAN: Do you feel like this was long overdue?

DAN QUICK: I do feel it was long overdue, yes.

Dan Quick served in the Nebraska Legislature until 2020 and was also a member of the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission. He says our country's rail system is the bedrock of its transportation, and even though the advent of cars and planes has made its passenger travel less desirable, it's still in many ways the engine that keeps parts of our economy running.

"It's not only going to help improve those rail sites and those areas but it's also going to help with economic growth," Quick said. "I know here in Grand Island they're getting 15.2 million. It's going to add 12 jobs to this facility. It could add another 40 jobs locally."

At the heart of it though, leaders say the money is about safety and ensuring what's preventable remains preventable.

"Sometimes in Washington people talk about regulation like it's all just meaningless red tape, but in this case it's really designed to keep people safe," Secretary Buttigieg said.

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