Region to share security grants

City-D.C. area gets $14.3 million in transit funds

July 07, 2006|By GWYNETH K. SHAW | GWYNETH K. SHAW,SUN REPORTER

WASHINGTON -- The Baltimore-Washington region is in line for $13 million in federal money to help shore up rail security, part of $400 million in grants announced by the Department of Homeland Security yesterday.

Transportation agencies in the area also will share $1.3 million in funding for increased bus security, and high-risk seaports across the country - including Baltimore's - will compete for a share of $168 million in port security money.

The region's $14.3 million allocation for transit security is a slight increase from last year. Other areas saw much larger increases, including the area around New York City, which will receive a $10 million boost over last year's funding for rail and bus security.

The "critical infrastructure" grants will be divvied up later this year, after transit agencies in Washington, Maryland and Northern Virginia submit applications detailing how they would spend the money, department spokesman Jarrod Agen said.

Maryland's homeland security director, Dennis Schrader, said officials from the city and the two states have been outlining priorities for the region.

"They'll have a running start on this," he said.

He said that it's important for Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia to work together, because both states have commuter rail lines that cross into Washington, and the Metrorail system extends into all three jurisdictions.

Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Batimore Democrat and a member of the House Transportation Committee, said the money is not enough - for the region or the nation.

Rail and bus lines "are still very vulnerable," he said. "My fear is that something happens and then suddenly we say, `We should have done something."'

The guidelines issued yesterday by Homeland Security emphasize working on protecting trains, tracks and buses from improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, as well as ways to reduce the risk of a bus being used as a weapon.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is eligible for rail security grant money, as is the Maryland Transit Administration and the Virginia Railway Express.

The Washington and Maryland transit agencies are also eligible for funding to make buses safer. So are a variety of county bus programs, including those in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

As part of the program, Amtrak will receive $7.2 million and a mandate to spend at least some of that money on enhancing security along the beleaguered railroad's Northeast Corridor routes.

Yesterday's announcement came a little more than a month after a separate grant program slashed anti-terrorism funding to several major cities, including New York and Washington. Baltimore is facing a 15 percent cut from last year.

The cuts enraged leaders in the affected cities, and several members of Congress - including Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Democrat - have vowed to try and restore some of the funding.

Schrader said he would work with what Washington sends his way.

"We're grateful for whatever we can get, quite frankly," he said. "We look at it as seed money and investment money."

gwyneth.shaw@baltsun.com

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