Carper: Homeland Security Compromise Fails to Tackle Threats to Passenger Rail Safety

WASHINGTON, DC – The compromise legislation to create a Department of Homeland Security misses a real opportunity to enhance the security of our nation’s passenger rail system. Senator Tom Carper’s measure to include $1.208 billion authorization for rail security and safety measures was included in the bill approved by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on which Carper sits, but is not included in the new compromise. The FBI warned in late October that they had evidence that al-Qaeda “has considered directly targeting U.S. passenger trains” and that “operatives may try a variety of attack strategies, such as destroying key rail bridges and sections of track to cause derailments or targeting hazardous material containers.” “Our failure to act to improve security of our rail travel is an Achilles heel in our nation’s efforts to secure our transportation system. The FBI has said that our rail system may be targeted and we have failed to make a full effort to protect it,” Carper said. “We have focused a significant amount of attention on preventing future airline hijackings but have failed to act to protect our nation’s passenger rail service. We must ensure that the passengers aboard our trains are as safe as the ones in the skies over America.” “Century-old rail tunnels carry hundreds of thousands of passengers daily through New York City, Baltimore and Washington, DC. They present serious safety and security concerns from poor ventilation and lighting to inadequate escape routes,” Carper said. “Amtrak’s security personnel are stretched thin and require better resources to prevent a terrorist attack. This compromise fails to authorize funds for Amtrak to address these critical concerns.” Carper’s amendment, which had passed the Senate Government Affairs Committee in a roll-call vote included: (A) $375,000,000 for grants to strengthen security at stations, bridges, tunnels, tracks, yards and facilities nationwide; (B) $778,000,000 for grants for life safety improvements to 6 New York Amtrak tunnels built in 1910, the Baltimore and Potomac Amtrak tunnel built in 1872, and the Washington, D.C. Union Station Amtrak tunnels built in 1904 under the Supreme Court and House and Senate Office Buildings; (C) $55,000,000 for the repair, and returning to service of Amtrak passenger cars and locomotives to ensure adequate capacity in the case of a national emergency similar to the aviation shutdown that occurred on 9-11-01.