Accuses Administration, Congress of Not Doing Enough to Protect Railroads
Mar 23 2004
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 23, 2004) – Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., today said the Bush administration and Congress have not done enough to protect our nation’s railways from a terrorist attack and urged quick passage of legislation that would increase efforts to protect passenger and freight rail from potential threats. Carper testified today before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which was holding a hearing on rail security in the aftermath of the March 11th terrorist attacks on rail stations in Madrid, Spain. Carper said Congress and the administration should heed the warning signs and realize that the United States has not done enough to protect against a Madrid-style attack. While the country has done a lot to protect our nation’s airports in the wake of September 11th, Carper said we’ve not been as diligent in protecting our nation’s railways. “We have done little to protect rail from terrorist attacks, creating an Achilles heel in our nation’s efforts to secure our transportation system,” said Carper. “Amtrak, freight railroads, and local transit agencies are doing what they can, but the federal government has not done its fair share. It’s time to stand up and take responsibility.” Carper, who served on Amtrak’s board of directors when he was governor of Delaware, has a long history with rail security. In the wake of the September 11th attacks, Carper joined with other senators, including Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., and Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., in writing legislation to increase security on our nation’s railways. But that language was eventually taken out of a bill creating the Department of Homeland Security, and subsequent efforts to pass similar legislation or include any specific funds for railway security have been blocked. Carper said he has also urged the administration to take steps to beef up security for passenger and freight rail, but so far, he said he has yet to see much progress. “As far as I can tell, there is not a concerted effort within the administration to strengthen rail security,” said Carper, who is a member of the Governmental Affairs Committee with jurisdiction over the Homeland Security Department. “In a lot of ways, our nation’s rail infrastructure is probably as vulnerable today as it was prior to September eleventh.” The Bush administration has failed to undertake a coordinate, systematic assessment of the risks to passenger and freight railways, and the administration has included no money for rail security in its fiscal 2005 budget request, Carper noted. He also said that while the administration claims it has spent nearly $115 million in homeland security, only about $35 million, according to information provided to Senate staff, have actually been made available. And all of that money has gone to local transit agencies, not to Amtrak or freight railroads. “I know we need to do more to protect our subways and Metro lines. No one is saying we do less,” said Carper. “But we shouldn’t be ignoring Amtrak, its passengers, or the need to secure the hazardous material that travels over our freight lines.” Carper and Biden have joined other senators, including Commerce Ranking Member Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, in introducing the Rail Transportation Security Act [S. 2216]. That bill would order the Homeland Security Department to undertake a risk assessment of rail security threats and devise steps railroads can take to protect infrastructure and facilities, terminals, tunnels, bridges and other at-risk areas. The bill would authorize for fiscal 2005 some $515 million to address rail security threats to award grants to passenger and freight railroads to implement the department’s recommendations. The bill would also order the department to study the cost and feasibility of screening passengers, baggage, and cargo on all Amtrak trains, as well as conduct a pilot program of random security screening of passengers and baggage at five of the 10 busiest passenger rail stations served by Amtrak. A separate study would review efforts made by other nations to protect their railways from security threats. In addition, the bill would authorize funds to upgrade aging ventilation, fire and electrical systems, as well as make other life-safety and security improvement at various Amtrak tunnels, including: $667 million for the 6 New York tunnels built in 1910; $57 million for the Baltimore and Potomac tunnel built in 1872; $40 million for the Washington, D.C., Union Station tunnels built in 1904 that run under the Supreme Court and the House and Senate office buildings. A copy of Carper’s full testimony is attached.