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Rail News: Passenger Rail

WMATA requests $190 million for security enhancements


Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is taking its increased-security efforts to new levels — on both more- and less-technological scales.

The authority Oct. 15 sent letters to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mitchell Daniels Jr. and Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, with copies to the region’s congressional delegation, requesting $190 million in detection and protection equipment, plus additional security enhancements.

Following the Sept. 11 attacks, WMATA General Manager Richard White identified in Congressional testimony $20 million of preliminary, immediate security enhancements WMATA wished to undertake. These measures included $1.8 million to install electronic employee identification targets and vehicular gates at all Metro facilities’ entry points, $2.2 million to complete installation of a Fiber Optic Network for video recording devices, and $8.9 million for programmable intrusion equipment to alert police of the exact location of unauthorized intrusion into the subway system, closed-circuit TV for yard and shop facilities and motion-detector alarms on perimeter fencing and rail yards, and intrusion detection warning systems on perimeter fencing at eight facilities.

A more comprehensive survey of WMATA’s security system revealed an additional $170 million in improvements, including: $2 million for high-visibility, uniformed patrols at seven vulnerable stations during revenue hours for 120 days, and eight additional K-9 teams and vehicles to detect explosives; $40 million to create backup operations control and command centers; $5 million for personal protective equipment (suits, gloves, masks) for 5,000 employees, training and satellite telephones for key personnel; $20 million for digital cameras installed on all Metrobuses; $7 million to modify facilities for bomb resistance, including placing additional bomb-resistant containers at all stations; and $15 million for an Automatic Vehicle Location system for Metrobus.

Meanwhile, separate letters were sent to Attorney General John Ashcroft, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, Mineta and Daniels seeking $81 million (included in the $190 million request) to expand Program for Response Options and Technology Enhancements for Chemical and Biological Terrorism (PROTECT), a joint venture formed in 1999 between WMATA and the U.S. departments of Energy, Justice and Transportation to install and test chemical sensors in transit systems.

In his letter to Ashcroft, WMATA General Manager Richard White advises that the initial set of sensors installed on a small section of the system is a "working model of applied protective technology, and the results will be shared with other transit systems both nationally and internationally."

On a less-technological front, WMATA officials earlier removed trash cans and recycling bins from station platforms. As of Oct. 17, they also are locking up and preparing to remove newspaper vending machines and bicycle lockers.

The double-decker newspaper boxes located under WMATA’s right of way, or beneath elevated tracks are being removed from 11 locations this week. An additional 124 boxes inside stations next to fare vending machines are being made inaccessible until they can be physically removed later this week.

The bicycle lockers — provided for passengers who ride their bikes to the station then take the trains to work — frequently are located in areas below tracks and platforms. Seven such lockers will be moved to another location for customer use.

"This is a natural next step to removing the trash and recycling bins and is another way that we are taking our already safe transit system and making it even safer," said WMATA Transit Police Chief Barry McDevitt in a prepared statement.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/17/2001