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Amtrak's Security, Safety, and Financial Issues

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Mark Dayton, OIG's Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Competition Issues, testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation regarding Amtrak's security, safety, and finances. Dayton recommended that Congress (1) provide the full $898 million needed by Amtrak to improve life safety needs in the tunnels beneath Penn Station New York; (2) require that any funds provided to Amtrak to improve safety and security be earmarked for specific projects and that Amtrak be held accountable for their use; and (3) eliminate the "sunset trigger" provision of the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act.

The trigger allows the Amtrak Reform Council to initiate the accelerated development of restructuring and liquidation plans if it believes the railroad will not meet its congressionally mandated goal of being financially self-sufficient by December 2, 2002. OIG does not support repealing the self-sufficiency requirement in the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act (ARAA) or extending the deadline for Amtrak to reach operating self-sufficiency. We support repealing one aspect of the ARAA, which is the time frame prescribed for events that must occur if the Amtrak Reform Council formally finds that Amtrak will not reach operating self-sufficiency by its deadline. Eliminating the sunset trigger would allow the Congress to hold discussions about restructuring and liquidation plans according to its own timetable, not one driven by ARAA's 90-day clock. If the trigger provision is not eliminated, consideration should be given to extending the windows for developing and evaluating the restructuring and liquidation plans.