Amid extreme heat, US infrastructure and transportation systems buckle under pressure

July 8, 2024

The nation’s transportation system was built to withstand the weather, come rain or shine.

However, the heat dome scorching the U.S. has been pushing the nation’s infrastructure to the limits. As millions of Americans face sweltering heat conditions, many have also been left stranded by disruptions in the nation’s transportation systems that buckled under extreme temperatures…

Adding to the delays were speed restrictions. Amtrak warned on June 20 that trains may slow down to accommodate the higher temperatures. The Washington, D.C., Metro did the same.

“Trains move more slowly during the heat because the tracks are softer and the catenary wires are drooping,” said Clinton Andrews, director of the Center for Urban Policy Research at Rutgers University.

Transit workers left vulnerable

Rising temperatures are also taking a toll on transit workers, from rail maintenance staff to ground crews at airports who are exposed to “really life-threatening levels of heat,” according to Andrews. And without them, trains and planes cannot operate…

Andrews said the U.S. needs to adopt a more adaptable infrastructure planning process.

“Hot weather has imposed stresses: the sagging catenary wires, the buckled tracks, the train cars whose brakes and motors are overheating, and the workers who are calling in sick,” Andrews said. “But the proximal cause is the fact that we haven’t invested in spring-loaded catenaries that can take up the slack when the wire droops. The fact that we are riding 50-year old train cars. The fact that our signaling systems are only slowly being updated.”

“Infrastructure systems need regular investment,” Andrews said. “Unfortunately, in much of the United States, we have not been doing that.”

NBC Washington, July 8, 2024


Recent Posts

Winecoff: Working Paper on Health Insurance Enrollment

Spillovers in Public Benefit Enrollment: How does Expanding Public Health Insurance for Working-Age Adults affect Future Health Insurance Choices? Abstract Enrollment in one public benefit program often affects enrollment in others. We study life-course spillovers by...

$21.1 million Awarded for the Safe Routes to School Program

The Murphy Administration announced $21.1 million for 23 grants under the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program on July 10, 2024. The New Jersey Safe Routes to School Program, supported by the New Jersey Department of Transportation, is a statewide initiative with a...

Deanna Moran Named MA Chief Coastal Resilience Officer

Deanna Moran, AICP (MPP/MCRP '16) was named the Chief Coastal Resilience Officer by the Healey-Driscoll Administration to address climate change impacts along Massachusetts’ coastline. Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Rebecca Tepper announced Deanna...

Voorhees Transportation Center seeks new Executive Director

The Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center (VTC) seeks a new Executive Director who will oversee the center’s research program, technical services and other initiatives, including external relations, communications, business development, and fundraising. The Executive...

How the heat will continue to affect your commute

Clinton J. Andrews, director of the Center for Urban Policy Research at Rutgers University, joins Drive Time with Michael Wallace to discuss how the heat affects transit infrastructure in and around the city.    WCBS AM-NY, July 11, 2024

Upcoming Events

Event Series CAREERS

Virtual Career Drop-ins


Stop by virtually on Mondays (except for holidays) beginning September 9th through December 16th between 11 am and 1 pm to ask a quick (15 min) career-related question of Bloustein […]