Regarding the horrific train crash in New Jersey, the NY Times reports (boldface mine):
Amtrak has installed the technology, known as positive train control, on parts of its rail network in the Northeast Corridor. But the technology, designed to automatically slow or stop a train to prevent accidents, was not available on a critical stretch of track in Philadelphia where Train No. 188 derailed on Tuesday night, killing at least seven and injuring more than 200….
“We feel that had such a system been installed in this section of track, this accident would not have occurred,” Robert Sumwalt, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, said during a news conference on Wednesday….
The Association of American Railroads argued as early as 2012 that meeting the 2015 deadline would be a challenge for most of its members because of the high cost of the system and the complexity involved in installing and testing it.
The trade group estimated the total cost for the railroads at $10 billion and said operators had already spent $5.2 billion.
“It is estimated that the cost of full implementation of PTC [positive train control] will be at least $2.75 billion,” said Michael Melaniphy, president and CEO of APTA, in the statement. “To date, Congress has only appropriated $50 million for PTC for this critical safety program.”
The U.S. government can’t run out of money (state and local governments can, but the federal government controls its own currency–unlike countries that use the Euro). Spending can lead to inflation or misallocation of resources, but it strains credulity, if not snaps it in half, to think that a $2.5 – $5 billion infrastructure payment will lead to the Weimar Republic*. It’s probably not a misallocation of resources either: imagine the train, in a populated area, is full of molten phenol or oil, instead of people (who tend not to explosively combust. Except for drummers).
This didn’t need to happen. And the foolish belief that the federal government can run out of money played a role.
*Which ran into problems because it owed debts in a currency it didn’t control.