Amtrak Poised to Fall Behind in Effort to Make Stations Accessible

An Amtrak conductor on a platform in Montana. A new report from the Amtrak Office of Inspection General found the railroad needs to dramatically speed up efforts to make stations ADA compliant. Photo by Justin Franz. 

Amtrak Poised to Fall Behind in Effort to Make Stations Accessible

By Railfan & Railroad Staff

WASHINGTON — Amtrak is unlikely to meet its goal of bringing all of its stations into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act by 2027, the railroad’s Office of Inspection General announced Tuesday in a new report. 

Amtrak has said it plans on upgrading 312 stations over the next six years at a cost of about $1.2 billion. But the Office of Inspector General said that will only happen if the railroad develops a better plan to achieve that timeline. For example, between October 2017 and April 2021, the railroad brought 36 depots into compliance, a pace that is far short of what is needed to meet that 2027 goal.

Amtrak has struggled to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was passed in 1990, and gave the railroad 20 years to upgrade its trains and stations for people who have mobility issues. The railroad blew past that 2010 deadline and still has a long way to go, resulting in a massive settlement with the Department of Justice last year

According to the report, Amtrak’s ADA stations team is already stretched thin, and without an increase in staffing and contractors, the team will face challenges in bringing the remaining stations into compliance by the target date. Company planning documents do not identify how Amtrak will use the current 46 contractors and eight full-time employees who make up the ADA stations team to achieve the increased output in work and expenditures.

The report also noted that Amtrak was struggling to upgrade stations that were owned or controlled by third parties because the railroad can’t do anything without their approval. For example, upgrades to the station in Elko, Nevada, have been on hold for 10 years because of such an impasse. “The company can take steps to gain third party compliance such as asking for the Department of Justice to intervene and enforce federal mandates requiring a third party to cooperate with Amtrak in addressing ADA deficiencies, but it does not have guidance in place that institutionalizes the steps Amtrak staff can take when they reach a stalemate,” the Office of Inspector General wrote. 

This article was posted on: September 8, 2021