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Rep. Davis seeks briefing on rail security pilot program

(The following article by Chris Strohm was posted on GovExec.com on April 29.)

WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the House Government Reform Committee asked the Transportation Security Administration this week to give him a briefing on a pilot program to address vulnerabilities at rail and transit stations.

Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., sent TSA a list of questions concerning the Transit and Rail Inspection Program, which will test passenger- and baggage-screening technology and processes at the New Carrollton transit station in suburban Washington. Davis asked TSA for a briefing by May 11 regarding the program, its testing and implementation.

Davis said he was "encouraged" by the creation of the program. "While few details of the program are known," he wrote, "TSA states that TRIP would be less time-consuming and intrusive than airport screenings."

TSA spokesman Darrin Kayser said Thursday the agency is still working out the details of the program. He said the effort should be launched in "early May," at which time details will be disclosed.

"We're going to fully inform the public before any screening is done as to the process of screening, what will be involved and what people should expect at the station," Kayser said.

The project is slated to last about a month, but could run longer if needed. TSA will screen for explosives and has discussed whether also to test technology that can detect other threats, such as chemical and biological agents. The New Carrollton station serves the Washington-area Metrorail system, Amtrak and the Maryland Area Rail Commuter light rail system.

Davis asked TSA how long TRIP will last, how physical checkpoints will work, what kind of technology will be tested, whether the checkpoint will be mandatory or voluntary for passengers, what specific criteria TSA will use to assess the program's effectiveness, and whether TSA plans to implement TRIP at other locations.

Friday, April 30, 2004

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