walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Sabotage and the Roads

I've been contemplating the track sabotage problem (in which a prankster, disgruntled person or terrorist damages track with the intent to derail a train carrying goods and/or people) in the wake of reading that 1922 NYT article about rail strikers. R. said there had been a fairly recent event. After finding numerous instances of track sabotage affecting freight (oddly, many in Florida), I found the one he was remembering (mid 1990s derailment of the Sunset Limited in Arizona), discussed as part of a larger analysis of organizational vulnerability to terrorism. (It occurs to me that blogging about this stuff is probably making my blog really interesting to someone, somewhere.)

R. and I kicked around whether there was a parallel problem with asphalt roads. He commented on bridges, and I said bridges are bridges -- how about the _road_. He mentioned a couple of methods for damaging the road, but none were particularly compelling. And then he recalled the rocks-off-the-highway-overpass problem.

Yeah, that's about right. It's damn easy to do. It kills people quite successfully (people shooting at cars, similarly, whether shooting from in another car or by the side of the road), whether the person meant to or not. And it's fucking expensive to prevent.

So anyone suggesting that it would be too dangerous to run fast passenger trains because of sabotage risk and/or too expensive to put in place measures to prevent sabotage (grade separation, fencing, automated surveillance, etc.) is going to have to run a comparison against people killing motorists by doing things like dropping rocks off of overpasses.
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