Rail Security Act Comes To Senate Floor
(Showing yet more legacy of the Republican, do-nothing Congress, the legislation, which is cosponsored by 22 Senators, was never championed by Stevens when the Alaska Republican ran the Commerce Committee over the last two years.)
Inouye's legislation (S. 184) will provide more than $1 billion for nationwide rail security improvements, including security upgrades for Amtrak, new freight and passenger rail security grants and specific stipulations for a program to re-route dangerous toxic inhalation or poisonous cargo around areas with large populations. The bill also includes $84 million for security enhancements to other surface transportation systems including truck, intercity bus and hazardous materials carriers.
"We have all seen the possible consequences of an attack on critical surface transportation systems in Madrid and London. We have all heard about possible threats and foiled plots aimed at our rail tunnels and stations here at home," said Inouye in introducing his legislation last month. "The time has come for us to address these vulnerabilities and risks in a comprehensive and coordinated way that ensures that in the rush to protect one mode of transportation we don't shift vulnerability towards other, less secure, transportation modes."
The Surface Transportation and Rail Security Act specifically provides $400 million for security improvements at rail tunnels in the New York City metropolitan area, a subject of huge concern to New York residents since the 9/11 attacks. The money provided by the bill will be used in part to provide for greater passenger egress and smoke ventilation in the event of an emergency.
"This is a major step forward for our region and for the millions of commuters who rely on commuter rail everyday," said Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), one of the bill's cosponsors.
"I am very pleased that this critical bill has been approved by the Commerce Committee," said Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), also a cosponsor of the measure. "This is a very positive forward step in our long campaign to increase security for New York and the nation's transportation systems. Our transportation systems remain vulnerable to attack. It is past time that we address this major infrastructure and economic risk."
Debate on the full set of recommendations from the 9/11 Commission, which passed the House of Representatives last month, is expected to come next on the Senate floor.