House OKs Bill For $6B Fed Transit Security Plans
New York City scored a long-sought victory last week when the House of Representatives passed legislation to strengthen rail and transit security in order to protect Americans using public transportation from the threat of terrorism.
Congressmember Joseph Crowley, noting that every day hundreds of New Yorkers rely on public transportation to work, visit friends and go about their daily lives, declared: "For the sake of protecting lives, this legislation provides the necessary boost in making rail and mass transit security a top national priority. By increasing federal grant funds to secure our bus, railway and subway systems, and protecting employees who report violations and risks, we are taking a major step forward toward achieving real security for all Americans."
Recalling major tragedies that have befallen major rail systems in other countries, the Elmhurst lawmaker added, "The deadly bombings in Madrid, London and Mumbai taught us that our railways, subways and buses should not be left exposed to the threat of terrorism. With the passage of this critical legislation Congress is finally heeding those important lessons."
The Rail and Mass Transit Security Act of 2007, which passed by a 299 to 124 vote in the House, is designed to close the security gaps facing rail and mass transit and includes provisions on such issues as training, grants, security, planning, research and development and shipments of sensitive materials, Crowley (D- Queens/The Bronx) explained.
He said the bill requires the Department of Homeland Security to develop a national plan for protecting railways, mass transit and intercity bus systems from attacks, and authorizes more than $6 billion over four years for grants to protect these vital transportation systems.
It also extends "whistleblower" protections to federal employees, contractors and employees of rail, transit and bus systems.
Crowley said among the highlights of the bill were:
+A requirement for a National Rail and Public Transportation Security Plan which mandates the Department of Homeland Security Department to develop and implement a required plan for rail, bus and public transit systems, called the "National Strategy for Rail and Public Transportation Security" within six months of enactment.
+A requirement for rail and public transportation systems to submit risk assessments and security plans to DHS, which must issue regulations within one year of enactment that call on rail, transit and bus providers that have been deemed high- or medium-risk to complete vulnerability assessments and implement security plans. This information must be submitted within six months of the regulations being issued, Crowley said, and requires that the plans be approved or disapproved within 12 months of the regulations being issued.
Crowley also pointed out that the legislation creates three new security grant programs: one for rail security grants, another for public transportation security grants and a third for bus security grants.
Large sums are authorized in the legislation over four-year periods for each of these grant programs: $2.4 billion for rail, $3.4 billion for public transportation and $87 million for bus security.
The bill must now be approved by the Senate and signed into law by President George W. Bush.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have been campaigning for transit security legislation and funding for several years, complaining that the city had to provide the funding for what is essentially a federal government responsibility.