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Clear and present danger: Terrorism threat to rail corridors 'is real,' report says


On Sept. 11, the Department of Homeland Security plans to release a report claiming the threat of terrorism against strategic freight- and passenger-rail corridors "is real," and that Al Qaeda has "apparent interest" in railroad attacks.

Entitled "OnTrac Trade Impact Study: National Economic Significance of Rail Capacity and Homeland Security on the Alameda Corridor East," the report was jointly commissioned by the Orange North-American Trade Rail Access Corridor (OnTrac) Joint Powers Authority and the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) as part of an environmental review of the Alameda Corridor.

"The disruption cost of shutting down the Alameda Corridor East [is] $414 million each day," said LAEDC Director of Public Policy Greg Freeman in a prepared statement. "With this much potential economic disruption, the federal government must consider providing a specific new funding category for strategic-rail trade corridors in their next transportation and homeland security reauthorizations."

The Department of Defense has designated southern California rail lines as strategically important national assets that enable the military to mobilize heavy equipment, such as tanks and tracked vehicles, said Elsa Lee, a counter-terrorism expert.

The report also suggests that rail provides the only growth alternative for the movement of goods in cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Las Vegas and Houston. Strategic trade corridors between major cities should become part of federal, state and local funding processes, and receive equal priority to highway and transit-system categories in federal legislation, the report states.

The U.S Treasury collects 45 percent of U.S. Customs' annual revenue on products moving through southern California's ports and corridors. But none of the revenue is reinvested in the nation's trade corridors or intermodal systems, the report states, adding that at least 30 percent of the revenue should be dedicated to strategic rail corridors each year.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/10/2003