AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott
Just over one month after the devastating train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, another train left the tracks in the west central part of the state Saturday evening, prompting temporary shelter-in-place orders for residents within 1,000 feet of the overturned train cars. While the crash fortunately resulted in no injuries and no evidence of hazardous materials spilling into the environment, it was yet more evidence of the fragile state of America’s infrastructure.
A 212-car freight train was traveling southbound in Clark County around 5 pm on Saturday when 28 cars went off the tracks near the city of Springfield. Although several of the cars that derailed had trace amounts of diesel exhaust fluid and polyacrylamide water solution, they were empty at the time of the crash. A statement from the Clark County Emergency Management Agency said that “the Clark County Hazmat team and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency each independently examined the crash site and verified there was no evidence of spillage at the site.”
The crash follows another derailment 200 miles northeast in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 3 that did send toxic chemicals pouring into the air and waterways. More than a month later, many residents are still unsure if the air they are breathing or the water they are drinking is safe after a haphazard response by both the state and federal government.
Both crashes have placed renewed scrutiny on the safety of America’s rail system and the officials responsible for it – namely, President Joe Biden and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. The White House has made hardly any mention of the East Palestine disaster, with Biden traveling to Ukraine instead of Ohio in the wake of the derailment. Buttigieg, meanwhile, appeared at first dismissive and then paralyzed by the crisis, only traveling to the site after a visit from former President Donald Trump, who publicly shamed Biden and the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, for their inaction.
In total, there were 1,164 train derailments in 2022 – a figure that is not unusually high for recent years, but is a 6.3 percent increase over the 1,095 derailments in 2021. Yet as the Department of Transportation remains preoccupied with various schemes to advance “equity” and “racial justice” rather than things like rail safety, many Americans are understandably wondering why Buttigieg and the White House are not more focused on reducing the number of accidents – particularly after Congress passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package ostensibly aimed at addressing that very thing last year.
It’s not just the U.S. rail system that appears on the verge of collapse, either. Last week, Politico released a startling new study revealing that near-collisions involving commercial planes in the U.S. have skyrocketed this year. According to the report, there have been more “near collisions” in the first two months of 2023 than in the last five years combined.
The report notes that “from 2018 to 2022, the data shows just three incidents that occurred in the U.S. in which commercial passenger or cargo planes ‘narrowly avoided’ crashing into each other.” Already this year, there have been four near-misses. These incidents have left government officials scrambling to explain how, in 2023, America is struggling to operate a system it pioneered and perfected.
Much of the scrutiny has been levied at the Federal Aviation Administration, another entity under the direct control of Secretary Buttigieg that was once considered the “gold standard” for safety but has seen its reputation tarnished in recent years.
On January 11, the agency grounded all flights nationwide for two hours after an outage of its Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system – the first such stoppage since 9/11. Again, Buttigieg was missing in action. Although he later pinned the blame on outdated software, he has provided no answers for what is being done to prevent such an outage moving forward. The fiasco came less than a month after Southwest Airlines was forced to scrap 16,500 flights during the Christmas season, leaving tens of thousands of American passengers spending the holidays trapped at airports.
The airline industry has also fallen victim to the same woke policies and government failures as the rail industry. After vaccine mandates led to many pilots being fired or quitting, some airlines are reducing minimum requirements for new pilots. Other airlines have adopted woke hiring policies for pilots, replacing merit and ability with race and gender quotas. Under Buttigieg, the FAA has touted its commitment to “equity” while safety standards have lagged.
Public survey data shows that Americans are noticing that the nation’s infrastructure is crumbling. A 2021 poll found that 79 percent of all Americans feel the country is “falling apart.” Supply chain crunches and widespread shortages of goods in 2022 have likely only added to that perception.
Meanwhile, Democrats remain fixated on whether roads are “racist” or whether there are too many white construction workers. Until those priorities change – or until leaders focused on pragmatic solutions rather than identity politics are put in charge – Americans are likely to continue suffering the consequences of outdated and unsafe infrastructure.
Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.