Amtrak squandered millions on Delaware relocation plan: watchdog

It’s a train wreck.

Amtrak has shelled out tens of millions of dollars for a failed plan to relocate hundreds of workers to a building it bought for $41 million in Joe Biden’s hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, the dog said Friday. official guard of the railway company in a report.

The plan, billed in 2018 as the railroad’s Unified Operations Center (UOC), would have moved hundreds of employees from across the country into a single downtown office building purchased by the company in 2020.

Some 250 train dispatchers from Washington, New York, Chicago and Boston, along with Amtrak police officers, IT staff and social media workers were all expected to make the building their home office, according to the report. Inspector General of Amtrak.

Amtrak projected savings of up to $50 million that would otherwise have been spent on office rentals.

But the plan veered off course almost immediately, according to the report.

Chicago, New York and Boston dispatchers work hand-in-hand with local transportation authorities — including the Long Island Railroad — and were unable to relocate to Wilmington because of those partnerships.

The Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Railroad Station is in Wilmington, Delaware.

Only 40 dispatchers from outside Wilmington are now expected to move into the building.

The relocation plan also called for a “police communications theatre” which would have required the combination of two floors to allow for large overhead display screens and tiered seating, the report said.

Just one problem, says the watchdog: Amtrak “did not confirm the structural feasibility of combining two floors of the building before purchasing the building” — and remains unsure if the “communications theater” plan is even possible. .

The railroad also planned to move or replace some 400 IT jobs, but this was put on hold due to “the significant operational disruption that would result from the loss of so many people with business-specific technology knowledge”, indicates the report.

Travelers, some with protective masks and some without, board an Amtrak train at the Joseph R Biden Jr railroad station in Wilmington, Delaware on April 22, 2022.
Approximately 35 dispatchers will work at the Wilmington Amtrak headquarters.

Now, no more than 35 IT positions are expected to be based in Delaware.

Amtrak, which now requires only a fraction of the building’s space, is working on a $37 million Wilmington Tower renovation.

Biden, who was not involved in the disastrous scheme, has long advocated funding Amtrak since he began riding the rails daily between Washington and Wilmington as a U.S. senator.

Under last year’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, carrying out Biden’s signature policy as president, Amtrak was to receive $66 billion in funding.

President Joe Biden
President Biden previously approved more than $60 billion in additional funding for Amtrak.

Partly because of the Wilmington debacle, Amtrak created a new group in its finance department to review proposed projects.

“These actions will likely be a positive contribution to the company’s ambitious capital planning goals, which are now made possible by the recent passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Employment Act,” the report said. of the Inspector General.

In an emailed statement, an Amtrak spokesperson said the company “plans to update the scope of the program to reflect changes in its workplace due to the pandemic and instructed the program sponsor to ensure that the UOC program follows the latest guidelines for developing a strong business case as it considers making future funding requests.

“Amtrak is currently waiting for the design firm to complete its evaluation to determine how best to modify and modernize the building and the costs involved, as well as to determine what other valued engineering options might be viable before making any further decisions. “, they added.

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