Watchdog group suggest changes to keep Gateway project on time and under budget

February 9, 2022

Amtrak’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report that raised several concerns and made recommendations in a report that warned the railroad needs to put specific procedures in place to bring the entire $30 billion Gateway Project in within budget and on time to avoid problems that resulted in other projects.

Amtrak’s Office of the Inspector General raised several concerns and made recommendations in a report that charges are needed to bring the massive $30 billion Gateway project on time and on budget and to avoid mistakes made in past projects that resulted in cost overruns and delays.

The most notable example is a recent report about the Moynihan train hall in New York that opened last year. An earlier OIG report in 2020 found the train hall went $72.8 million or nearly 69 percent over Amtrak’s initial $106 million budget and that competition and opening was pushed back until Jan. 1, 2021. The train hall was renovated in conjunction with the Empire State Development Corp and developer Vornado Realty Trust.
“Our prior work on other major programs identified early planning deficiencies as the reason for schedule delays, cost overruns, and strains on partner relationships during the later construction phases,” the report said. reported that the entire Gateway program includes construction of two new Hudson River rail tunnels, rehabilitating the old tunnels, building an annex for more trains at Penn Station New York, replacing the Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River with two spans, building a four-track railroad between Secaucus Junction and New York and a lot for Bergen county trains to access the Northeast Corridor.

The recommendations are to create a Gateway Program Management plan, to guide the Gateway team on how the project will be developed and executed. Amtrak needs to assess resources to ensure it has the necessary staff to do the work, the report said.

It also needs to have better internal communication protocols and use standardized reports to collect, generate and distribute Gateway information, the report said. Amtrak also needs to create a risk management process and assessment for Gateway, was the final recommendation.

The four recommendations could be could be implemented by June, according to the report.

The agency is “accelerating process improvements and will continue to incorporate best practices into the Gateway Program – efforts that had been underway prior to the OIG’s audit,” said Jason Abrams, an Amtrak spokesman.

The report said the inspector general is concerned that with Gateway, Amtrak is moving into a role of executing and co-managing large scale infrastructure programs. With an infusion of $60 billion from the Biden Administration infrastructure bill, Gateway also isn’t the only large infrastructure program Amtrak is handling.

Amtrak also is building a new rail tunnel in Baltimore, replacing a structure that is older than the 111-year-old Hudson River Tunnels to be rehabilitated as part of Gateway. It also is rehabilitating the four East River rail tunnels between Manhattan and Queens that were damaged by flood waters from Hurricane Sandy.

The report warned these projects could compete for company resources, such as staff expertise and equipment, adding risks to the Gateway program’s budget and time frames.

“Successful transition into this dual role will take considerable forethought and planning, require new skillsets and expertise, and demand an enhanced level of program management,” the report said.

Having the recommended changes in place is critical as the $12.3 billion Gateway Tunnel project is being considered for Federal Transit Administration funding after that projects rating was improved making it eligible for grants.

Officials of the Gateway Development Corporation estimated that construction on the tunnel could start in summer 2023, if federal funding is secured by December.

“As the Gateway Program accelerates out of the planning phase and into construction and delivery, Amtrak is also evolving and dedicating the resources necessary to meet our commitments to the Program, our partners and the nation,” Abrams said.



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