Hearing Highlights Transit Security Needs

WASHINGTON, DC – At a Senate Banking Transportation Subcommittee hearing this afternoon, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) called on Congress and the Administration to continue efforts to strengthen transit security. Two Carper amendments accepted as part of the Homeland Security Bill provide for review of transportation security measures and rail security funding authorization. Carper is a past member of Amtrak’s Board of Directors. “We’ve made progress in securing transit systems nationwide,” said Carper, a member of both the Senate Banking and Governmental Affairs Committees. “However, additional steps and coordination with the federal government are still needed to protect these valuable assets from potential terrorist attack.” The Governmental Affairs Committee recently accepted two Carper amendments to the Homeland Security Bill that address transit security. The first amendment requires the GAO to review existing threats, vulnerabilities, and steps taken to secure our transportation modes and report to Congress on its findings and areas for improvement. It also calls for an assessment, to the extent possible, of the potential cost of rectifying security weaknesses. The second amendment provides an authorization for $1.2 billion for rail security enhancements, tunnel improvements and wreck repair across Amtrak’s system. Portions of these investments will significantly benefit the security of commuter rail and transit operators who use Amtrak facilities, tracks, tunnels and bridges. “As today’s GAO testimony pointed out, transit vehicles and facilities have often been subject to terrorist attacks in other parts of the world. The inherent characteristics of multiple access points, high ridership, central location, and economic importance that make transit so attractive, also make it susceptible to danger,” Carper said. “As our highways clog with gridlock and our skies fill with smog, the critical need for transit service across our nation becomes clearer and clearer. I believe we must work diligently to promote new and strengthened transit options in both rural and urban areas. As part of this responsibility, we must ensure the security of our transit systems, so they can deliver the maximum benefit to our transportation network and our communities. A more secure transit system is a stronger transit system.”