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Senate committee backs bill proposing more federal funds to bolster transit-system security


Yesterday, the Senate Banking Committee unanimously approved the Public Transportation Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which would authorize $5.2 billion over three years to improve U.S. transit security.

Committee members plan to integrate the bill into the Rail Security Act of 2004 (S. 2273) — which would authorize $1.2 billion to help protect passenger and freight railroads against terrorist attacks — and bring the legislation to the Senate floor.

"More needs to be done to make our rail lines, subways and public transportation systems as secure as possible," said committee member Sen. Tom Carper (D.-Del.) in a prepared statement. "This legislation will help provide the equipment and workforce necessary to make those systems more secure."

The bill would create a needs-based grant program within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to identify transit systems' potential risks and vulnerabilities. DHS would develop strategies to address those risks and coordinate government agencies.

The legislation is designed to end confusion over which federal agency is mainly responsible for transit security by transferring most of those duties from the Federal Transit Administration to DHS. FTA and DHS would develop a memorandum of understanding that outlines both agencies' roles in developing security standards, setting federal priorities and coordinating with transit agencies.

The bill also would create a capital grant program providing $3.5 billion for security infrastructure; an operation grant fund providing $800 million in 2005, $500 million in 2006 and $200 million in 2007 to fund workforce training, public awareness campaigns and canine patrols; and a research grant program providing $200 million for the study of chemical, biological, radiological or explosive detection, and imaging technologies.

"[The bill] would provide critical financial capital and operating resources to keep our nation's public transportation systems secure," said American Public Transportation Association President William Millar.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/7/2004