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Rail News: Amtrak

Amtrak, FRA have not 'exercised efficient management' of Northeast Corridor improvement project, GAO report says

In 1992, the Amtrak Authorization and Development Act established a goal for the national passenger railroad: reduce travel time between Boston and New York City to three hours. To date, the goal has not been met; the trip currently takes three hours, 24 minutes — but could be further reduced if the corridor was managed better, according to a report issued March 8 by the United States General Accounting Office (GAO).

Since launching the Northeast High-Speed Rail Improvement Project in the 1990s, Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration have not "exercised effective management or oversight" of the project, according to GAO. The report reviewed the status of the Northeast Corridor improvement project, Amtrak’s management of the project, FRA’s oversight and best practices for managing future large-scale rail infrastructure projects.

"Amtrak’s management was not comprehensive, and it was focused primarily on the short term," the report states. "Amtrak focused on managing the electrification and acquisition of new high-speed trains, and did not sufficiently address major infrastructure improvements needed to attain the trip-time goal."

Also, Amtrak did not fully integrate commuter-rail authorities and state governments into the project, and FRA did not have the resources to oversee Amtrak’s project management, GAO said. Of 72 work elements FRA identified in 1994 as necessary to reduce trip times, increase capacity and rebuild assets, 51 are incomplete or have an "unknown" status, the report said.

GAO recommended that FRA develop best practices and guidelines for Amtrak to manage its large-scale infrastructure improvement projects. The office also recommended FRA seek legislative authority to oversee future projects.

Amtrak officials said they were incorporating best practices as part of its management restructuring, according to GAO.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/10/2004