Digest: Amtrak Inspector General sees few flaws in handling of COVID relief funds

News Wire Digest third section for Dec. 18: Amtrak, redevelopment group seek changes to Washington Union Station plan; Honolulu to replace head of rail transit agency
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More Friday morning rail news:

Amtrak inspector general says railroad has been mostly effective in handling CARES funds, but some flaws exist

Amtrak has been effective in its use of and accounting for Federal CARES act relief funds, according to a report by the Amtrak Office of Inspector General, but there were some flaws in addressing use of those funds for state-supported services. Amtrak received $1.018 billion in the coronavirus relief funding, and as of October had spent about 87% of that money. The office found that the passenger railroad underreported its use of the funds set aside for state-supported costs by about $686,000 out of a total of $97 million; when informed, the railroad’s finance department revised its reporting to more accurately reflect the remaining funds. The office also found that Amtrak could more consistently apply its coronavirus paid leave policy. The full report is available here.

Amtrak, redevelopment group asks FRA to make changes to Union Station expansion plan
Amtrak and the Union Station Redevelopment Corp. are urging the Federal Railroad Administration to change some parts of the proposed expansion of Washington Union Station, joining critics who have said the proposal is too focused on automobile traffic. The Washington Post reports the two entities say the FRA, which leads the federal review of the $10 billion proposal, should look to downsize a planned 1,600-space parking garage and the design’s accommodation of auto and bus access. District of Columbia officials have already voiced their concerns that the plan does not reflect the city’s effort to reduce auto traffic [see “Digest: Major Alps tunnel project …,” Nov. 2, 2020].

Honolulu rail agency board won't renew contract of executive director
The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation will not renew the contract of Executive Director Andrew Robbins when it expires Dec. 31, but hopes name an interim director to replace him next month. Honolulu Civil Beat reports Roberts, who has led the agency building the 20-mile, 21-station mostly elevated light rail system since September 2017, fell victim to the collapse of efforts to create a public-private partnership to complete the last 4-mile segment of the system, and the breakdown of efforts to relocate utilities along one portion of that segment. The troubled project is now estimated to be $10 billion or more over budget, and may not be complete until 2033.

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