Rail security: Embryonic and in need of money

One of the scenarios was the simultaneous
detonation of powerful explosives on Metro trains while underneath the
Potomac River between Virginia and Washington and the section of tunnel
beneath the Anacostia River linking Maryland.

 Another involved terrorists planting underwater explosives near Metro tunnels in these two rivers.

“If the walls were breached…well, you get the
picture,” explained one of the counterterrorists, who understandably
requested anonymity.

On March 23, the General Accounting Office’s
Peter F. Guerrero, director of Physical Infrastructure Issues, and
Norman J. Rabkin, managing director of Homeland Security and Justice
Issues, said in joint testimony before the Senate Committee on
Commerce, Science, and Transportation that “securing the passenger and
freight rail systems are fraught with challenges…the open access and
high ridership of mass transit systems make them both vulnerable to
attack and difficult to secure. Similarly, freight railroads transport
millions of tons of hazardous materials each year across the United
States, raising concerns about the vulnerability of these shipments to
terrorist attack.”

Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Tom
Ridge deferred requests by public transit systems for $6 billion in new
federal aid, opting instead to launch in May a pilot program to test
rail baggage-screening technology and to use existing funds to create a
rapid-response team of explosive-sniffing dogs for transit systems in
high-threat situations.

Ross Capon, executive director of the
National Association of Railroad Passengers, said the real threat
facing the nation’s railroads isn’t being addressed, pointing to the
need to improve the security of rail bridges, tunnels and stations.

Rand Corp. terrorism expert Jack Riley told
the congressional panel rail security planning is lacking: “Compared to
other transportation sectors, decision-making appears to be quite
decentralized between a number of federal, state, local and private

Between $11 billion and $12 billion has been
appropriated for airline security since the Sept. 11 attacks, compared
to $115 million for mass transit in general—and much of that has yet to
be spent.

Look for Congress, especially Senate Democrats, to push legislation seeking more money for rail and mass transit security. HST

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