The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) appropriated $8 billion for high and conventional speed passenger rail. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), within the Department of Transportation (the department), was responsible for soliciting applications, evaluating them to determine program eligibility and technical merits, and selecting awards, which were announced in January 2010. This report examines the extent to which FRA (1) applied its established criteria to select projects, (2) followed recommended practices for awarding discretionary grants, and (3) communicated outcomes to the public, compared with selected other Recovery Act competitive grant programs. To address these topics GAO reviewed federal legislation, FRA documents, and guidance for other competitive grant programs using Recovery Act funds. GAO also analyzed data resulting from the evaluation and selection process and interviewed a cross-section of FRA officials and applicants.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Transportation||1. To help ensure accountability over federal funds, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration to create additional records that document the rationales for award decisions in future high speed intercity passenger rail (HSIPR) funding rounds, including substantive reasons (1) why individual projects are selected or not selected and (2) for changes made to requested funding amounts.|