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A PREEMPTive measure: House transportation committee members introduce rail security improvement bill


Yesterday, Reps. Don Young (R-Alaska), Jack Quinn (R-N.Y.) and Jon Porter (R-Nev.) introduced the Protecting Railroads against Enemy Efforts through Modernization, Planning and Technology Act (PREEMPT), which would provide more than $1 billion to freight and passenger railroads to improve security and implement anti-terrorist measures, including more than $600 million to improve the safety of Amtrak's and commuter railroads' tunnels in New York City, Washington D.C., and Baltimore.

Young, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Quinn and Porter, who serve as House Subcommittee on Railroads chairman and vice chairman, respectively, believe PREEMPT or H.R. 4604 will "harden our nation's rail system against the possibility of terrorist attack and improve our ability to recover from such an incident," according to a prepared statement.

"First and foremost, PREEMPT authorizes $570 million to improve the safety and security of the Northeast Corridor rail tunnels in New York City," said Quinn. "These tunnels, which are used by tens of thousands of passengers each day, were built in 1910 and lack the security and life safety features found in modern passenger rail facilities."

H.R. 4604 would provide grants for improving station security, expanding railroad police forces, increasing public awareness programs, adding canine patrols and implementing counter-terror technologies, such as automated rail-car inspection, right-of-way security monitoring and emergency bridge repair systems.

"Recognizing the efforts already undertaken to address rail security, the bill avoids unfunded mandates by authorizing funding to implement additional security measures," said Association of American Railroads President and Chief Executive Office Edward Hamberger.

PREEMPT would require the U.S. departments of transportation and homeland security to develop a comprehensive rail security plan, including contingency plans designed to keep the nation's rail network operational after a terrorist incident, and authorize USDOT to provide grants to railroads, shippers and others for security-related improvements.

The bill also would appropriate $350 million in fiscal year 2005 to improve security and redundancy for critical communications, electrical power, computer and train-control systems; enhance hazardous-material shipment security; improve station, train and infrastructure security; expand intelligence and information dissemination on rail security threats; implement train tracking and interoperable communications technology; and add railroad police resources.

In addition, PREEMPT would provide more than $80 million in FY2005 and FY2006 for an automated security inspection system; communication-based train control systems; emergency bridge repair and replacement technology; track, structure and right-of-way integrity monitoring; tank car vulnerability improvements; bridge and tunnel inspections; a unified national railroad emergency operations center; and signaling improvements.