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LI lawmakers urge increased funding for rail safety

(The Associated Press circulated the following article by Frank Eltman on April 23.)

MINEOLA, N.Y. -- Citing the terrorist attacks on trains in Madrid and a minor crash in a tunnel leading to Penn Station, two members of the Long Island congressional delegation called Friday for the federal government to increase spending for railroad safety.

Standing on a Long Island Rail Road platform as commuters raced to catch their trains, Reps. Carolyn McCarthy and Steve Israel said the administration plans to spend $65 million on rail security this year, while $4.5 billion has been earmarked for airline security.

"In terms of people traffic, (the Metropolitan Transportation Authority) moves in six weeks what the airlines do in a year," McCarthy said. "There's no way rail security should get 70 times less than airline security."

The two Democratic lawmakers said they were backing a proposal that would appropriate an additional $250 million for improvements in rail communications, the installation of security cameras, funding for bomb-sniffing dogs and increased training for rail personnel, as well as equipment and training for emergency personnel.

Israel cited a General Accounting Office study that estimated it would cost $2 billion for long-term efforts to improve rail security.

"This is not a Republican or a Democratic issue," he said. "There are Republicans and Democrats who get on these trains every day and deserve the same level of protection."

Gerard Bringmann, vice chairman of a Long Island Rail Road commuter advisory group, said he was "thrilled" with the call for increased spending.

"I have nothing against airline security," Bringmann said, but he cautioned, "a packed commuter train has just as much potential as an airliner going down, as far as casualties are concerned. It can be just as catastrophic."

On March 11, 191 people were killed in the Madrid railroad bombings.

Last Monday, a packed LIRR train was waiting in a tunnel to enter Penn Station when it was hit from behind by a crew-only Amtrak train moving at less than 15 mph. The collision sent people and their possessions flying, with 127 people suffering minor injuries including cuts, bruises and neck and back strains.

Monday, April 26, 2004

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