It was just after sunset on May 12, 2015, when an Amtrak train, traveling on the Northeast Corridor at twice the legal speed limit, hit a curve and derailed just outside of Philadelphia.
The one-year anniversary of the Amtrak Train 188 crash is a somber reminder of one of the worst rail disasters in recent history. It was an incident that had a profound effect on Congress’s approach to rail safety.
Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), who were poised to release a passenger rail reauthorization bill at the time of the accident, put their plans on hold. Weeks later the two lawmakers emerged with a bill that included a number of safety changes, such as requirements for passenger trains to install inward-and-outward facing cameras and to develop safety action plans for highway-rail crossings. The legislation also increased a cap on the amount a passenger rail company is obligated to pay victims after an accident to $295 million from $200 million.
Those proposals were eventually wrapped into the FAST Act, a five-year highway and transit law signed by President Barack Obama late last year.
But there are still questions about what happened the night that Train 188 screeched off the tracks. Federal investigators at the National Transportation Safety Board will update the public on their investigation of the accident on May 17. In previous statements, NTSB has said that the accident could have been prevented if anti-collision technology known as positive train control had been installed on the track.
Amtrak said it takes full responsibility for the accident. “We are cooperating fully with the NTSB to support the ongoing investigation of the Train 188 derailment,” an Amtrak spokeswoman said. “Our goal is to fully understand what happened and how we can prevent a similar tragedy from occurring in the future.”
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