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MBTA given millions to bolster security

(The following article by Raja Mishra was posted on the Boston Globe website on September 27.)

BOSTON -- Boston will get more than $13 million in homeland security grants, mostly for security upgrades of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority system.

More than $9 million of the federal money will be used to design and build a second subway control center in the Charlestown area that would keep the massive T network operating should the main control center downtown be damaged or destroyed.

“In the event there should be some problem downtown, this should enable us to keep the trains and buses running, as well as provide a place to coordinate our security personnel and transit officers,” Daniel A. Grabauskas , MBTA general manager, said yesterday.

About $1 million will be used to add security measures, such as alarms on the access hatches, inside the 20 miles of tunnels in the T system. And $400,000 will be used to study potential security improvements on commuter boats, state officials said.

The money was part of a $399 million homeland security package announced Monday that boosted support to high-risk cities, including Boston and New York, after controversial cuts to those areas earlier this year drew criticism from elected and law enforcement officials.

New York City will receive $79.5 million to help secure its ports, subways, and bus and train systems.

In addition to the money for T security, the Commonwealth got $2.1 million for securing infrastructure such as bridges and roadways around the Boston area. State officials said the amount given to the Hub was the maximum total available under a federal government formula based on a city's size and its likelihood of be ing a terrorist target.

Meanwhile, state officials said yesterday that spot inspections over the past month at liquefied natural gas facilities -- identified as among Massachusetts' most vulnerable targets -- found that they all have adequate antiterrorist security measures.

The Romney administration's report recommends that the state Legislature double the current penalties for safety and security violations at LNG sites to $100,000.

The inspections were prompted by a security breach at the Lynn LNG facility in August in which two men broke in and climbed to the top of a tank holding hundreds of gallons of the explosive liquid. Both intruders are at large.

KeySpan, which runs the facility, was unaware of the break-in for five days even though security cameras caught the intruders on tape. A federal investigation of the incident is ongoing.

The report concluded that several facilities needed to trim trees and fix rusty fences, but that otherwise the state's LNG facilities are secure.

“This report provides assurance that plants are meeting state and federal security requirements,” the governor said in a statement.

Carmen Fields, a spokeswoman for KeySpan, said the firm would use the results of the Romney administration inspections, as well as those from the ongoing federal review and an in-house private audit, to revamp security arrangements at the Lynn facility.

“We will get a comprehensive picture of what needs to be done to perfect our system,” she said.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

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