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Connecticut transportation prepares for higher terror alert

(The Associated Press circulated the following story by Sarah Coffey on April 2.)

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Security measures that were put in place at Connecticut's train and bus stations following last month's bombings in Spain will be maintained following a new government alert that terrorists might target buses and rail lines in major U.S. cities this summer.

The FBI and Homeland Security Department sent a bulletin Thursday saying terrorists could attempt to conceal explosives in luggage and carry-on bags, such as duffel bags and backpacks.

Passengers could see changes because of the bulletin. Federal officials are encouraging local transit authorities to conduct random passenger inspections and security sweeps of stations and to increase public announcements encouraging people to report unattended baggage or suspicious behavior.

State troopers from Connecticut and New York will continue to ride Metro-North commuter trains, Metropolitan Transit Authority spokesman Tom Kelly said. Bomb-sniffing dogs will randomly sniff luggage, and other measures have also been taken, he said.

"Many times security's been increased without people even knowing it has," he said.

State Department of Transportation spokesman Chris Cooper said uniformed and plain clothes security officers will also continue to ride Shoreline East and Amtrak trains.

Kimberly Vasquez, 24, rides the Amtrak train once a week between Hartford and New York City. She said following Sept. 11 she takes care to be more vigilant in public places.

"But if it's going to happen, it's going to happen," she said. "It's scary, but I don't know what else I can do."

DOT Transit Administrator Michael Sanders said officials conducted drills in January involving a hijacked bus and bombs on trains.

Officials have talked about screening luggage on buses, but decided the costs and time involved in screening passengers would be prohibitive.

Passengers should feel safe but be alert, he said.

"There's no way that I would ever say we can prevent every incident from happening," he said.

Standing on the bus platform at Union Station, Lisa Riccio, 46, of East Hartford said she felt safe putting her 15-year-old daughter alone on a bus to Boston to visit her sister in college.

"Why let them stop me from doing my everyday thing?" she said.

German native Cathleen Tauseh, 20, is living in Hartford for a year while working as an au pair. She said she felt safe boarding a bus to New York City to catch a flight out of J.F.K. Airport back to Germany.

"There's enough security. If something will happen it will happen. There's nothing I can do about it," she said.

Monday, April 5, 2004

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