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Rail Contractors Raided by Agents

June 8, 2000

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ Amtrak is investigating why contractors made hundreds of changes to the work plan for the $600 million Northeast rail electrification project, part of the high-speed rail project which will connect Boston and Washington.

About 20 subpoenas have been issued for documents from Balfour Beatty Construction Inc. and Massachusetts Electric Construction Co., Amtrak Inspector General Fred Weiderhold said Thursday.

Last-minute changes are common in the construction industry, especially for such a large, complex project as this, Weiderhold said. But he said the sheer number of changes made for which the companies requested reimbursement was greater than expected.

Subpoenas were issued after the companies failed to provide documentation for the changes in a timely and complete way, he said.

On Wednesday, agents raided the companies’ joint office in Old Saybrook and carted away vanloads of computers and documents.

``We’re doing what we need to do to protect federal money,″ Weiderhold said. ``I expect we will continue to use our subpoenas as we need to.″

The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office are aiding the investigation.

Contract manager Chris Elliott would not comment Thursday.

The companies so far have been paid about $487 million to electrify 157 miles of rail between Boston and New Haven, Weiderhold said.

The project ties New England in with the electric rail system that runs to Washington. It is expected to cut two hours off the time it takes to travel by train from Boston to New York. The New York-to-Boston trip will likely take three hours; the Washington-to-New York leg, two hours and 45 minutes.

The investigation is not expected to delay completion of the project or the introduction of the new Acela trains along the corridor. Amtrak is planning to introduce Acela Express trains in late July.

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