Amtrak Made Significant Improvements in its Long-Term Capital Planning Process
On January 27, 2011, we issued our report on Amtrak's long-term capital planning process as requested by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies. Our objectives were to determine: (1) Amtrak's five-year capital requirements and how they align with the company's business and strategic goals; (2) how Amtrak prioritizes its capital projects; (3) Amtrak’s capital needs and ability to implement its increased capital budget as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA); and (4) how Amtrak evaluates the performance of its capital projects.
Amtrak has established four planning documents that outline the company's long-term capital requirements and align with the company's business and strategic goals. In March 2009, Amtrak implemented Decision Lens, a software package that it has used to prioritize its capital needs in a transparent manner. While Amtrak has established a capital spending plan for its $1.3 billion in ARRA funds, the company likely faces challenges in making investments by the mandated February 17, 2011 deadline. Finally, although Amtrak has made progress in developing capital project performance metrics, the company still faces challenges in evaluating capital projects, including difficulties in identifying metrics for projects that cannot be easily evaluated. We made recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) administrator to ensure that Amtrak successfully integrates and maintains recent improvements to its long-term capital planning processes and effectively spends ARRA funds. FRA concurred with our recommendations, and has completed actions to address one recommendation and proposed appropriate actions to address the other recommendation.