Providing that documentation “would enhance the credibility of FRA’s awards decisions,” the report continued. "By not establishing this record, FRA invites skepticism about the overall fairness of its decisions, even if they are sound, and hinders meaningful disclosure of how it made its decisions, if it chooses to do so."
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said the report showed the Obama administration had bungled the federal rail push, which began under former President George W. Bush.
“The rationale for the Administration’s awards of billions of dollars under a failed high-speed rail program remains shrouded in mystery,” Mica said in a written statement.
“In the name of high-speed rail, the Administration has squandered limited resources on dozens of slow-speed rail projects across the country and simply provided more funding for modest Amtrak upgrades. Although we can develop cost-effective high-speed rail transportation in this country, I cannot imagine a worse beginning to a U.S. high-speed rail effort," he said.
Mica said it was important that future rail awards be more transparent. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is in the process of reviewing 90 applications from 24 states for $2.4 billion in high-speed rail money turned down by Florida.
The FRA took a different conclusion from the GAO report, saying it showed the rail grant process was sound.
"The [transportation] department is extremely pleased that GAO’s review of the project selection process concluded that DOT followed good grant making practices in making high-speed rail award decisions," FRA spokeswoman Brie Sachse said in a statement provided to The Hill.
"GAO was particularly complimentary of FRA’s merit-based practices for identifying projects and awarding grants and considered FRA to be one of the top-rated agencies in the government for communicating critical information on its American Recovery and Reinvestment Act competitive high-speed rail grant program," Sachse said.
GAO: Obama administration rail decisions not clear enough
By Keith Laing - 04/11/11 07:02 PM EDT