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New railroad security bill introduced in U.S. House

(The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure issued the following news release on June 17.)

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- New legislation designed to expand and improve anti-terrorist security programs for passenger railroad and freight rail systems was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives today.

The new legislation (H.R. 4604) - “The Protecting Railroads against Enemy Efforts through Modernization, Planning and Technology Act” (PREEMPT) - was introduced by:

* U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), Chairman, Transportation & Infrastructure Committee
* U.S. Rep. Jack Quinn (R-NY), Chairman, Subcommittee on Railroads
* U.S. Rep. Jon Porter (R-NV), Vice Chairman, Subcommittee on Railroads

The legislation will provide the resources both to harden our nation’s rail system against the possibility of terrorist attack and to improve our ability to recover from such an incident. It will direct the preparation of comprehensive security plans, including contingency plans, for preventing and, if necessary, recovering from any terrorist incident.

Provisions of H.R. 4604 range from simple to high-tech, including expanding of the authority of our nation’s existing railroad police force and developing new counter-terror technologies to protect all aspects of the nation's rail network.

The legislation will provide in excess of $1 billion in new money, including more than $600 million to improve the safety of critical rail tunnels used by Amtrak and commuter railroads.

At a press conference announcing the legislation, Quinn, Porter and Nancy Wilson, Assistant Vice President of Safety and Security for the Association of American Railroads, outlined the importance of increased rail security programs included in H.R. 4604.

Legislation Is Result Of Extensive Behind-The-Scenes Effort To Improve Security
“On May 5th, my Subcommittee held a lengthy hearing on railroad security,” Chairman Quinn said. “This hearing was the culmination of an extensive behind-the-scenes effort to improve the security of our nation’s rail system. The Rail Subcommittee Members and staff have been working on this important issue for years, but –given the sensitive nature of the subject matter—most of these discussions have been conducted in private.

“Much has already been accomplished since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The freight railroads have spent millions of their own dollars to tighten security and protect the nation’s rail system. Similarly, Amtrak and our major commuter rail carriers have implemented a number of new measures to ensure the safety and security of the traveling public.

“Most of this has been accomplished without any direct financial assistance from the federal government. This effort is commendable, but we have to do more.

“That is why I am joining Chairman Young and Vice Chairman Jon Porter today to introduce the ‘Protecting Railroads against Enemy Efforts through Modernization, Planning and Technology Act,’ or ‘PREEMPT’ a bill to increase the security of our national rail system.

“First and foremost, PREEMPT authorizes $570 million to improve the safety and security of the Northeast corridor rail tunnels in New York City. These tunnels, which are used by tens of thousands of passengers each day, were built in 1910 and lack the security and life safety features found in modern passenger rail facilities. PREEMPT will provide the resources to bring these old, but heavily used tunnels into the 21st century.

“In addition to the NY tunnels, this bill authorizes money for upgrades to the tunnels in Baltimore and here in Washington, D.C.

“Another issue of concern is our ability to keep the rail system operating in the event of a disaster. Our bill will provide funding for redundant power, communications and train control systems to ensure continued operation in the event of a catastrophe.

“We are also providing funding for new technologies, such as automated freight car inspection, right-of-way security monitoring, and emergency bridge repair systems.

“In addition, PREEMPT will provide grants for station security, improved public awareness programs, additional canine patrols and other measures to ensure public and employee safety.

“In all, this bill authorizes over $1.1 billion to improve the safety and security of our rail infrastructure, communications and operational systems and dedicated railroad employees. Introduction of this legislation re-affirms our commitment to providing our homeland security personnel the tools and resources necessary to provide the most secure rail transportation network possible,” Quinn said.

“Even Before Madrid Attacks, We Knew Rail Lines Were Terrorist Targets”

“Even before the Madrid attacks, we knew that our rail lines were terrorist targets,” said Vice Chairman Porter. “Unlike other infrastructure, every inch of track and every signal is a vital part of the system and a critical vulnerability.

“In my fight against plans to ship nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain, I have been reminding members of Congress and the public of the terrible vulnerability of the tracks that carry hazardous material. My fight against Yucca Mountain continues, but the need to safeguard passenger and freight rail remains.

“There are more than 100,000 miles of track in the United States alone that need to be kept safe and secure. Advanced technologies and new resources are necessary to make this feasible.

“The PREEMPT Act is a comprehensive bill that accomplishes the important goals of ensuring interagency cooperation between DOT and Homeland Security to provide clear agency responsibility; providing the funding to fix key passenger rail chokepoints now; providing more flexibility in the use of rail police; ensuring research on rail safety, monitoring, and response technologies.

“Our country cannot ignore the threat that exists to our rail transportation systems. This bill also prepares for the future, by making sure commuter rail and maglev, both planned for Southern Nevada in the future, are eligible for security funding and assistance,” Porter said.

Summary Of Major Provisions Of PREEMPT Act

* Requires a comprehensive DOT-DHS rail transportation security plan (including contingency plans for keeping the rail network operational after a terrorist incident). Consultation with and input from rail transportation stakeholders is a key element.
* Requires within six months a DOT-DHS memorandum of understanding establishing respective rail security responsibilities.
* Authorizes DOT grants to railroads, shippers, and others for a variety of security-related technologies and improvements, including:
o Automated security inspection [$5 million annually for FY05 and FY06]
o Communication-based train control systems [$20 million]
o Emergency bridge repair and replacement technology [$5 million annually for FY05 through FY08]
o Track, structure and right-of-way integrity monitoring [$3 million for FY05]
o Reduction of tank car vulnerability [$3 million for FY05]
o Bridge and tunnel inspection [$20 million]
o Unified national railroad emergency operations center [$10 million]
o Signal system integrity at switches [$1.5 million annually for FY05 and FY06]

$350 million in FY05 for:
o Security and redundancy for critical communications, electrical power, computer and train control systems
o Rail hazardous material shipment security
o Passenger station, train, and infrastructure security
o Intelligence and information on rail security threats
o Train tracking and interoperable communications technology
o Additional railroad police resources

* Funds DOT procurement of safety/security improvements to Northeast Corridor and Washington DC tunnels:
o $100 million annually for NY tunnels for FY05 through FY08, and $170 million in FY09
o $10 million annually for Baltimore tunnels for FY05 through FY08, and $17 million in FY09
o $8 million annually for Washington DC tunnels for FY05 through FY09
* Expands current authority of railroad police officers to allow exercise of law enforcement powers on any railroad, not just their “home” carrier.
* Requires comprehensive DOT-DHS review of all DOT regulations affecting security within one year.
* Clarifies Federal Railroad Administration authority over rail safety and security matters.
* Applies to all forms of railroad under Federal Railroad Administration jurisdiction, including freight, intercity passenger, commuter, high-speed rail and magnetic levitation systems.

Friday, June 18, 2004

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