Commerce Panel Approves Carper-Biden Rail Security Bill

Bill Would Help Amtrak, Freight Railroads Beef Up Anti-Terror Efforts

WASHINGTON, DC (April 8, 2004) – The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee today unanimously approved legislation, sponsored by Delaware Sens. Tom Carper and Joe Biden, that would authorize almost $1.2 billion to help protect passenger and freight railroads from potential terrorist attacks. The legislation, entitled the Rail Security Act of 2004 (S. 2273), would require the Department of Homeland Security to conduct vulnerability assessments of passenger and freight rail infrastructure throughout the country. It would then authorize $62 million through DHS for Amtrak to address specific rail security vulnerabilities and $660 million for safety and security improvements to Amtrak’s network of tunnels in New York City, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. The legislation would also set up a separate $350 million grant program for Amtrak, freight railroads, hazardous material shippers, and state and local governments to receive money for rail security upgrades. Another $100 million would be authorized for rail security research and development. The bipartisan legislation builds on previous bills Carper and Biden have sponsored, including the Rail Transportation Security Act [S. 2216], which was introduced immediately following the March 11 attacks on four rush-hour trains in Madrid that left 191 dead. “We’ve spent nearly eleven billion dollars on airline security since September eleventh, but we’ve not done nearly enough to make sure our rail lines and subways are as secure as they could be,” said Carper, a former member of Amtrak’s board of directors. “Madrid was a wakeup call to remind us that we should be doing more to prevent a terrorist attack on our nation’s railways. We can’t be complacent on this issue any longer.” “We need to take immediate action to keep passengers safe and make our rail system more secure. We need more dogs to sniff for explosives. More police officers, better lighting, closed-circuit television surveillance, fencing – nothing fancy or experimental, just resources to do what we already know can work,” said Biden. “It is imperative that the good people who board these trains know they are going to be protected. And bad guys and terrorists who would seek to target our rail system need to know they will be stopped and caught.” Despite repeated attempts since September 11, 2001, by Biden, Carper and others, Congress has failed to pass comprehensive rail security legislation – and the Bush administration included no funds in its fiscal 2005 budget request to help Amtrak and freight railroads enhance their security efforts. The Carper-Biden bill would try to rectify that by authorizing just over $1 billion for Amtrak, freight railroads, rail shippers, and state and local governments to make security enhancements, such as hiring more police and canine units, at rail stations across the country. In addition, the bill would: — Set up a pilot passenger-screening program at five rail stations across the country; — Protect whistleblowers at Amtrak and other rail carriers who report security failings; — Require DHS department to conduct a study on rail security measures adopted by foreign countries; and — Require DHS to study hazmat tank car vulnerability.