NEW YORK CITY — Mayor Bill de Blasio and more than two dozen mayors from across the country called for increased federal transportation funding Wednesday, calling it a "painful coincidence" that they were gathering hours after a deadly Amtrak crash in Philadelphia killed at least seven people.
"This is a wake-up call," de Blasio said in Washington D.C. in front of the U.S. Capitol. "It's a reminder of how much we depend on our mass transit, how much we depend on our roads and bridges, how much our safety is directly linked to the kind of investments we make in how we get around."
The effort from the U.S. Conference of Mayors included meetings with members of Congress to advocate for the renewal of and increased funding for the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which expires at the end of May.
The National Transportation Safety Board said the New York City-bound Amtrak train was traveling at approximately 106 mph when it entered a sharp curve just before the derailment.
The speed limit on that section of track is 50 mph. NTSB officials said a sophisticated computer system called positive train control would have automatically slowed the train but was not in place on that stretch of track.
While the exact cause of the crash is being investigated, the mayors said the derailment, which shut down Amtrak service from Philadelphia to New York, makes clear how important transportation infrastructure is to the country.
"Every day in America lives are lost and productivity is lessened because of an inadequate system of infrastructure," said Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett.
Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said: "Transportation connects our cities. Transportation infrastructure is what unites us."
De Blasio called not only for the Highway Trust Fund to be replenished, but for funding to be increased. He also called for a bill that spans six years so that mayors around the country can plan transportation infrastructure projects and get them done quickly.
In New York City, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has asked the mayor to increase funding to help close a $14 billion gap in its five-year capital plan. De Blasio increased funding to meet the MTA's initial request of $125 million per year but the agency says it needs more.
The mayor has repeatedly said that it's going to take funding from the city, state and federal government to meet the needs of the MTA, which is seeing increased ridership amid increasing break downs and delays in the system.
In his $78.3 billion executive budget, de Blasio included $22 billion for transportation infrastructure such as $7.8 billion to rehabilitate bridges and $1.6 billion for road resurfacing.
But cities can't do it alone, said the mayor.
"Only here in Washington can we get the decision we need to move our cities forward and invest in our infrastructure," de Blasio said.