Inspector calls on Amtrak to make 312 stations ADA compliant after long delays

Amtrak has a budget of $1.2 billion to make network more accessible in line with federal legislation

Clara Hill
Wednesday 08 September 2021 20:47 BST
(Getty Images)
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Amtrak needs to do more planning before it is fully compliant with disability legislation, a new report says.

The US rail operator has outlined plans to spend roughly $1.2 billion to enable bring 312 stations in line with the Americans With Disabilities Act, which was enacted in 1990. Amtrak was given until 2010 to accommodate those living with disabilities, a deadline the company missed.

According to the company’s website: “Most Amtrak stations in major cities, and many other stations across the country, are accessible to passengers with a disability. Amtrak is committed to ensuring that its facilities are fully accessible and is continually working on accessibility improvements.”

However, a report from the Amtrak Office of Inspector General released on Tuesday has found the company needs to do more. Late last year, Amtrak paid out more than $2 million in civil cases related to ADA violations over their inability to serve wheelchair users and those with mobility restrictions, according to documents.

Eric Dreiband, an assistant attorney general at the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, at the time said in a statement after the ruling earlier this year: “Passengers with disabilities have waited long enough.”

The Justice Department outlined poor-performing stations as Newark, North Philadelphia and Ashland, Virginia.

Amtrak has said it is currently planning to make 300 stations compliant with the law, and the Inspector General praised the network for its ambition. The report cited the company’s intention to comply with disability legislation, along with taking on broad recommendations from a 2014 report.

The latest report stated: “Managers from the Planning and Strategy department and the Procurement department told us they do not have enough staff to implement the additional planned projects and already face difficulties managing current projects.”

Currently, the ADA Stations team at Amtrak is made up of eight full-time staff and 46 contractors.

Amtrak responded to the report, seen by The Washington Post, by broadly agreeing with its conclusions.

The report also found charges for five fiscal years, between 2015 and 2020 fiscal years, totalling $81 million, were “questioned” in light of not having sufficient accompanying documents.

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