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Blumenthal: Action Vital to Protect Against Terrorism in Rail and Mass Transit

Following weekend bombings, Blumenthal urges specific steps to correct security gaps in ground transportation as well as air

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today at Hartford’s Union Station, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) called for swift consideration of a bipartisan bill to address deficiencies in the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) efforts to protect rail, transit, highway, and maritime passengers.

“Five unexploded pipe bombs near a New Jersey train station were a stark reminder that vigilance is essential against violence in ground transportation, not just air,” Blumenthal said. “This comprehensive bill seeks to protect travelers through a stronger focus on surface transportation safety—improving maritime worker and rail passenger screening, advancing state-of-the-art technologies to detect explosives, and increasing the presence of bomb-sniffing dogs at rail and transit stations.”

A Department of Homeland Security investigation released two weeks ago found that the TSA lacked any coherent intelligence-driven strategy to rail safety. TSA spends only three percent of its budget securing trains, subways, buses and ports—a glaring deficiency that leaves millions of commuters and passengers at increased risk. Congress mandated action by TSA to enhance surface transportation safety in 2007, yet over eight years after the August 2008 deadline for these measures, TSA is nowhere near completion of the necessary actions.

The Surface Transportation and Maritime Security Act would enhance security planning and risk assessment, improve screening of maritime workers, and provide new tools for Amtrak. It would also authorize as many as 70 additional canine teams immediately, and up to 200 more depending on need, for surface transportation security nationwide. Blumenthal has repeatedly called (see here, here and here) on the TSA to enact a number of critical security measures for passenger rail systems required in a 2007 mandate from Congress. He pressed TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger on the status of these measures at a Commerce Committee hearing in 2015. He also successfully included provisions in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill, which passed in July, to enhance security at train stations and “soft targets.”

The Surface Transportation and Maritime Security Act was introduced by a bipartisan group that Blumenthal joined as a cosponsor, including Senators John Thune (R-SD), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).