Bill Would Order Risk Assessment; Authorize Money for Security and Safety Upgrades
Mar 12 2004
WASHINGTON, DC (March 12, 2004) - Saying yesterday's attacks on rail stations in Madrid should serve as a "wakeup" call to improve rail security in the United States, Sens. Tom Carper and Joe Biden today introduced legislation that would increase efforts to protect rail passengers from potential terrorist threats. The legislation, entitled the Rail Transportation Security Act [S. 2216], 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 year 2005 some $515 million to address rail security threats or award grants to passenger and freight railroads to implement the department's recommendations. The bill is cosponsored in the Senate by Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., the senior Democrat on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, as well as Sens. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine. The legislation builds on previous bills Carper and Biden have introduced since the attacks of September 11, 2001, to address the security of America's passenger and freight rail system. While Congress has upgraded air safety, it has failed to do anything about rail, and the Bush administration included no funds in its fiscal 2005 budget request for rail security enhancements. "The tragic events yesterday in Madrid prove that rail systems are vulnerable to terrorist attacks," said Carper. "Amtrak and our commuter railroads are doing all they can to keep riders safer, but the federal government needs to do its job as well. Today, more people use Amtrak's Pennsylvania Station in New York City in a single day than use all of New York's airports combined. It is imperative that the Homeland Security Department take specific steps to ensure that rail passengers are as safe as they can be from terrorist threats." "My heart goes out to the victims and the families of yesterday’s deadly terrorist strikes on commuter trains in Madrid. As unimaginable as those attacks were, the horrifying images of the rush-hour bombings and the carnage left in their wake could have easily been replicated on any number of American cities," said Biden. "The harsh truth is that our passenger rail system is far from safe, and unless we do something about it and do it quickly, we could suffer a similar or even worse fate. If we don’t use this tragic event in Madrid as a wake-up call, and start investing in rail security, in my opinion, we are making a tragic mistake." The bill would also order the Homeland Security 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 safety technology, and other emergency systems 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.