Bill Set for Committee Action Next week
Apr 02 2004
WASHINGTON, DC (April 2, 2004) – Saying today’s discovery of a bomb on a rail line in Spain is yet another “wakeup call” to improve rail security in the United States, Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Joe Biden, D-Del., joined Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., and Ranking Member Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., in introducing legislation that would increase efforts to protect passenger and freight rail from potential terrorist attacks. The bill is set to move through the Commerce Committee next week. 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 also 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 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. “Today’s news in Spain is yet further proof that we need to do more to protect rail lines in this country,” said Carper, a former member of Amtrak’s Board of Directors. “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. 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." The bill is set to be moved through the Commerce Committee on Thursday, with Senate floor action to follow soon thereafter. The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., and Ted Kennedy, D-Mass. Despite repeated attempts since September 11, 2001, by Biden and Carper, 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. In addition to the $722 million authorized for Amtrak to make security enhancements, the legislation would set up a $250 million grant program for railroads, hazardous material shippers, Amtrak and others to receive money through the DHS. Another $100 million would be authorized for rail security research and development. The bill would also require the department to conduct a study on rail security measures adopted by foreign countries, as well as a study of hazmat tank car vulnerability.