Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Amtrak accused of hindering stimulus oversight

Of course, some will use this for their own nefarious purposes, but most of us would expect the very minimal sum of $1.3 billion allocated for station improvements and desperately needed equipment repairs to be spent for the intended purposes. USA today reports the latest.

Amtrak managers have improperly interfered with oversight of the railroad’s $1.3 billion in economic stimulus funding, according to an independent report by a former federal prosecutor.

The article gives some useful background and specific allegations. It is a good read.

Several things are happening at once here. There will be those who gleefully denounce the favorite whipping boy of every ne0-conservative. Likewise, there will be those who would defend any level of corruption in defense of their favorite train.

Somewhere out of the smoke, we need to return to last year’s sudden departure of Amtrak President Alex Kummant. Followed by the retirement of  Amtrak Inspector General Fred Weiderhold, the seasoned political observer gets the strong feeling that “something’s up.”

This is a shame because there seem to be hints of appropriate management behavior coming from Boardman and others. Nonetheless, if we were to dismantle every public institution in which there were acts of misconduct, we would probably have to begin with the Republican party.

Let’s be realists about this. Amtrak is a federal program and, while shamefully deprived of operating capital for 30 years, it does have a flow of federal money. There is always the possibility for misconduct.

I have a bad “gut” feeling that there is something wrong at Amtrak. Political experience teaches that dealing with this forthrightly and immediately will go a long way towards restoring confidence. An overly-defensive reaction will only fuel the political opportunists and ill-informed journalists.

Supporters of Amtrak need to be realists, but not allow highway and airline special interests, along with those whose only agenda is to destroy President Obama, to use this bad situation to advance the same old agenda to which we have all been subjected so many years.

Filed under: Amtrak

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July 2009