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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

U.S. senators call for tighter security at rail stations, ports


A bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced a bill this week that would require the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to beef up security for surface transportation locations such as rail stations and ports.

The proposed "Surface Transportation and Maritime Security Act" would address deficiencies in the TSA's efforts to protect rail, transit, highway and maritime passenger and freight transportation that were identified in a recent report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security inspector general, according to a press release issued by U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)

The bill, S. 3379, is sponsored by Thune and U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.)

The legislation is intended to address concerns underscored by recent attacks on rail stations in Western Europe, as well as in New Jersey, where a pipe bomb was discovered earlier this week near a rail station.

"TSA has broad responsibilities for transportation security, but oversight and independent audits have raised considerable concern about its approach to protecting rail, transit, maritime, and highway travelers," said Thune. "This bipartisan legislation addresses gaps in TSA's approach to assessing security risks and will help the agency better fulfill its role as a hub of analysis, planning, and information."

Nelson, a former member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that while the TSA has been "hyper-focused" on airport security since the 9/11 attacks, recent events in the United States and overseas will require the agency to increase its focus on other transportation modes.

The bill would require the TSA to:
• immediately increase canine teams patrolling train stations and ports, as well as enhance screening of rail passengers and maritime workers;
• conduct a risk analysis and implement a risk-based security model for surface transportation facilities;
• submit budgets that clearly indicate which resources will be used for surface transportation security and which will be used for aviation; and
• update Congress on the status of "long overdue" surface transportation rulemakings.