Commentary: Ohio Train Derailment Shows We Need an America First Infrastructure Policy Now More than Ever

by David Vasquez


After the massive train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 3, our nation’s infrastructure issues are now top of mind for many American citizens. While East Palestine experienced a landmark environmental disaster after nearly 50 train cars were derailed, Biden administration officials remained silent for weeks. The derailment demonstrated a fact that is all too apparent in recent months: America’s infrastructure is being neglected, and the Biden administration’s policies are not the answer to the problems we face.

This incident highlights several major issues with America’s infrastructure, including mislabeling hazardous materials in transit. The lack of adequate safety protocols emanated from an earlier decision by the Biden administration in December to intentionally ignore reforming a practice known as Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR), which reduces personnel and inspection time for railways.

Sens. Marco Rubio and J.D. Vance penned a letter questioning the Biden administration’s prioritization of “efficiency over resilience in its national infrastructure and transportation systems,” in light of its lax stance on PSR and infrastructure safety.

With limited critical infrastructure funding to repair railways and a lack of clearly defined federal safety protocols from the Biden administration, an accident like this was the result of several contributing factors that reflect the administration’s fractured infrastructure policy.

The derailment occurred due to a mechanical failure with an overheating wheel bearing, according to the latest National Transportation Safety Board report. Eleven of the train cars that derailed contained highly hazardous material, including vinyl chloride, a chemical used in hard plastics that is known to increase the risk of liver and other cancers.

In the meantime, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has wasted no time in promoting key talking points about transportation and infrastructure in America. These points include statements that racism is historically built into highways, that white construction workers take jobs from communities of color and that we must make repairs of ports and waterways contingent on promoting equity, environmental justice, and ESG-like policies over all other priorities.

While the Biden administration is committed to these social justice priorities, American infrastructure continues to deteriorate. Under the administration’s current timeline, it would take more than 30 years to repair all bridges in need of repair in the U.S.

Additionally, the regulatory burden from environmental policies such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) has hindered any progress on improving our nation’s infrastructure. After the Trump administration passed policy reforms that modernized NEPA in 2018, the Biden administration reimplemented its policies. As a result, highway repair projects now take an average of seven years to complete as opposed to less than four years during the previous administration.

The Biden Administration consistently claims that American Infrastructure is back on track, driven by the massive $1.2 trillion “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” that was passed in November of 2021. And yet, instead of fulfilling its promise to fix America’s roads and bridges, Biden Administration has implemented policies that created skyrocketing costs, fewer projects completed, and more infrastructure decay.  Let’s take a closer look at how this is unfolding.

The administration’s spending policies have fueled rampant inflation that has taken more than $4,000 in household income from American families, income that could be reinvested back into the economy. Additionally, rising costs for producers have also hampered infrastructure repair. The increased cost for essential infrastructure materials like lumber(300%), steel (150%), and diesel (40%) have all risen dramatically.

The increased costs have often left infrastructure projects unfinished or delayed, as many projects are understaffed and over budget.

Another glaring issue with the Biden administration’s approach is, ironically, it is notable underspending on the infrastructure itself. Out of the total $1.2 trillion invested in infrastructure reform, less than 10% of the funding goes toward repairing roads, highways, and bridges. At the same time, the Biden administration has devoted tens of billions of dollars toward non-critical infrastructure projects, including natural road crossings for animals and tax credits for e-bikes.

Additionally, even though this funding was signed into law more than 16 months ago, because of federal bureaucracy, increased costs, and an inflation-driven workforce shortage, not a single shovel has broken ground because of the Biden Administration’s funding.

Before the start of the Biden administration, the U.S. had a plan that streamlined the decision-making and reporting process to repair our infrastructure. This decision ensured that American infrastructure could focus on building roads while cutting back on federal bureaucracy and cost.

These practical reforms brought America’s infrastructure score from two consecutive D+ grades in 2013 and 2017 to a C- in 2021, the highest grade in more than 20 years. Although overhauling America’s infrastructure will take time, America First infrastructure policies present a clear solution. Unfortunately, the Biden infrastructure plan is reversing course by attempting to prioritize a green agenda and a utopian future driven by climate catastrophizing.

The answer to infrastructure reform is clear. NEPA modernization saved families $204 billion annually and streamlined processes to improve America’s critical infrastructure, supply chains and overinflated federal bureaucracy.

The American people need an infrastructure policy that promotes prosperity and freedom. The only infrastructure plan that will guarantee that for our nation is an America First policy.

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David Vasquez is a Policy Analyst in the Center for American Prosperity and the Center for Energy & Environment at the America First Policy Institute.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Norfolk Southern Train” by James St. John. CC BY 2.0.




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