From the CRS Report to Congress, March 14, 2008:
“The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 (P.L. 110-161), provided $1.325 billion in grants to Amtrak plus $30 million to the states in a new matching grant program for passenger rail-related capital improvements. For FY2009, the President is requesting $900 million for Amtrak, which is the same amount the Administration requested and $455 million less than Congress
appropriated last year. Amtrak is requesting $1.671 billion, which is $316 million more than Congress appropriated last year. Amtrak’s request does not include $114 million in ‘back pay’ for some of Amtrak’s union employees, one of the recommendations of Presidential Emergency Board 242, which was recently appointed to resolve a labor dispute.”
If Amtrak mishandling of the reconstruction of parking at their Lancaster station is an example of how they run the company, there is little surprise that they cost taxpayers over $1.5 billion in subsidies each year.
First they come up with a parking layout that is stupid beyond belief, in that it doesn’t add any parking spots for their customers. Instead they relocated employee parking to the prime area. Thanks to the Watchdog who raised ‘hell’ with Amtrak, their local engineers, and officials, the plans was totally revamped.
Next we learn that a couple of weeks ago Amtrak advised the County Commissioners that costs would be $2.5 million instead of the $1.7 million previously estimated. Understand that the estimate was probably pre-recession and prices for construction have plummeted subsequently, especially as far as asphalt is concerned. How can any enterprise be off by 50% on cost estimates after obtaining bids?
Then a visit to the train station indicates that little thought has been given to commuter parking during the construction period, with no spaces set aside for short term parking and an outlandish daily charge of $5 for the first minute.
Today we read in the Intelligencer / New Era that Amtrak has agreed to accept full responsibility for the any cost overruns. Is this because there will be no cost over runs or because Amtrak is scared about the adverse publicity and possible investigation by authorities?
We love Amtrak. But we loath wonton stupidity on the part of people who should know better.
Here is a bit of raw meat that conservative Congressman Joe Pitts could sink his teeth into. He should be asking: What the heck is going on with Amtrak?