Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Wednesday said Senate acceptance of amendments to spend nearly $5 billion on rail and transit security is an excellent step toward securing one of our most densely populated and vulnerable forms of transportation.
The amendments, co-sponsored by Senator Lieberman, authorize $3.5 billion for mass transit security grant programs and $1.2 billion for freight and passenger rail security. Connecticut commuters would benefit from rail and transit security upgrades
“Terrorists have hit the subways, trains, and buses of London, Madrid, Mumbai, Tokyo, Moscow, and Israel,” Lieberman said. “It is inconceivable that they have forgotten about us in the United States.”
Fourteen million people use rail and mass transit every day in this country. In Connecticut, the Metro North New Haven line is one of the busiest rail lines in the United States, carrying about 110,000 riders each day. The Stamford, Conn., train station on that line is among the busiest city rail stations in the United States.
Under the first amendment, $3.5 billion is authorized over three years for security grants for mass transit lines across the country, including the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority, whose lines run into Connecticut. Connecticut residents who commute into New York also would benefit from the security improvements to the rail and mass transit systems made in that state.
The amendment further funds research and development for mass transit security, which could lead to necessary advancements in security technology. Finally, the amendment restores funding for the Public Transportation Information Sharing and Analysis Center, of which Connecticut mass transit systems are members. The PT-ISAC is the vehicle for mass transit systems across the country to share and analyze critical information about threats to the sector and defenses against them.
“The speed, reliability, and convenience of mass transit have become a part of the cultural fabric of this nation and help to make us as mobile a nation as we are,” Lieberman said. “Unfortunately, transit systems pose one of the greatest challenges to security experts – a challenge that calls for the attention of our nation’s best and brightest minds and should be a much bigger priority for the federal government than it is has been. We must apply the same ‘can do, will do’ attitude we’ve adopted toward aviation security to mass transit and rail security.”
The second amendment, with an authorization of $1.2 billion over three years, directs the Department of Homeland Security to complete and prioritize recommendations regarding vulnerability assessments for freight and passenger rail systems. The amendment creates a pilot program to conduct random security screens of passengers and baggage at a specified number of Amtrak stations. It authorizes funding for certain fire and life-safety improvements and infrastructure upgrades to Amtrak tunnels on the Northeast Corridor. It also directs Amtrak to submit to the National Transportation Safety Board and the Secretary of Transportation a plan to address the needs of families of passengers involved in rail passenger accidents.