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Second Train Disaster This Month Reminds Us Of Infrastructure Shortfall

2 horrific railway crossing accidents in one month, and Congress won't even whisper 'infrastructure funding.' Is this the new normal?

In addition to the miserable news about Republicans holding the Department of Homeland Security hostage, there was another awful railroad crossing disaster today in Oxnard, California.

In today's crash four people were critically injured, officials said, but there were no fatalities. There were 51 passengers on board and 28 were taken to local hospitals. The other 23 were not injured. The injuries included significant head trauma, broken limbs, and back and neck injuries, emergency service personnel said.

The driver of the truck fled the scene and was taken into custody, officials said.

The train was going 79 mph near the crossing at 5th Street and Rice Avenue at about 5:40 a.m. when its engineer spotted the fiery truck, said Sergio Martinez of the Oxnard Fire Department.

The engineer immediately hit the brakes but was unable to stop in time, officials said. Four train cars derailed.

Oxnard is a rural community, and this crossing is a high risk crossing.

Crossing at higher risk than others, U.S. agency says. The Federal Railroad Administration rates the Rice Avenue crossing in Oxnard as the 23rd most likely in California to see an accident, with a 17.8% risk of a crash in a given year.

On February 3rd, there was a horrific fatal train derailment of the Metro-North train in Valhalla, New York. The crash was preceded by a series of events that caused a traffic jam which made the conditions ripe for a SUV to be stuck in the railroad crossing.

About an hour before the crash, a southbound car on the (Taconic State) parkway struck a northbound car that was preparing to turn left onto Lakeview Avenue. Southbound lanes were closed, as well as one northbound lane. Because of that, there was traffic trying to avoid the parkway built up on local roads, including the otherwise little-used Commerce Street, which skirts a large cemetery. The stoplight-controlled intersection where detouring traffic can leave or return to the parkway is less than 100 feet from the tracks.

But grade-crossing accidents on three major commuter lines have not declined like the national average in New York. In 2004, there was 26 of them in the New York area and the number dipped a bit until it rose back up to 28 in 2013. Granted these two accidents were results of human error, but why are there so many dangerous crossings in the first place? If anyone has ever driven on the Taconic State Parkway in New York, you know that's a road badly in need of modernization. This neglect to our infrastructure has indirect, deadly consequences.


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While the Republican-controlled Congress is dithering on matters of Homeland Security funding, our infrastructure gets a grade of D+ from civil engineers. Still, it seems highly likely we will be seeing more and more of these disasters while the G.O.P. Congress finds new ways to spite the American people and their collective safety. Don't forget, President Obama supports funding infrastructure upkeep, so that will never happen. Way to be patriotic, Republicans!

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