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Transit Security: The good, the bad and the undone

(The following Letter to the Editor by James P. Hoffa was posted on the Washington Post website on August 23.)

The Aug. 11 editorial "A Chilling Reminder" outlined new concerns regarding air travel. Similar scrutiny needs to be directed at other modes of transportation. While we've become accustomed to our bags or shoes being screened before we board planes, no such anti-terrorism precautions are taken before passengers board trains.

Since 2001 the federal government has spent nearly $20 billion on aviation security; just over 1 percent of that amount, $250 million, has gone toward securing the nation's rail and other transit systems. Passenger rail lines carry five times as many passengers as airlines. At the same time, and often on parallel tracks, freight rail carries liquid chlorine, ammonia and other hazardous materials that could kill hundreds of thousands of people within minutes in the event of an attack in an urban area. Still, Teamsters members, 70,000 of whom work as locomotive engineers, trainmen and maintenance-of-way employees, have told us that they have yet to receive thorough safety training or appropriate equipment to thwart a hijacking or other terrorist act.

We can't leave any holes in our security net. Our members deserve appropriate anti-terrorism training and equipment so they can do their part to protect the public and themselves.

JAMES P. HOFFA

General President

International Brotherhood of Teamsters

Washington

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

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