- The Washington Times - Friday, March 9, 2001

Metro is the only major U.S. transit system without insurance covering its stations, a vulnerability that could cost taxpayers $100 million if just one station is destroyed.

Metro board members yesterday said they hope the transit authority's budget next year includes funds for a $1 billion insurance policy to cover rebuilding stations and tracks damaged in a natural or manmade calamity.

"The issue really comes down to how big a risk you want to take," Metro Chief Financial Officer Peter Benjamin told the board's budget committee.

Mr. Benjamin laid out his reason why Metro should pay $841,000 a year for a rider to its current policy with the Aon Insurance Corp. to cover the transit agency's $22 billion, 25-year-old subway system.

"If there ever were an incident and, say, one of our stations was unfortunately taken out, the cost would be enormous and would fall directly on the jurisdictions," he said.

The full Metro board will vote on the 2002 budget June 21 after more reviews throughout the spring.

Mr. Benjamin said the insurance policy is a minimum investment that would protect Metro's jurisdictions Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia from steep rebuilding costs after a disaster.

Metro's safety director Fred C. Goodine said the policy is needed now more than ever because of potential terrorist threats in the nation's capital.

"If you are a terrorist, do you go for a movie theater … or a Metro station?" Mr. Goodine said before the meeting. "The risk has increased."

He said the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City show that Metro stations could be targeted for terrorism.

"In the world we live in, we have to be realistic," Mr. Goodine said, adding that Metro has personal-liability insurance as well as insurance covering its passengers, rail cars, buses and other facilities.

Metro currently is self-insured for damage to its stations and lines, Mr. Goodine said.

Some security experts say subway systems are prime targets for terrorism because they have a mass of people occupying a confined area. The 1995 sarin-gas attack in Tokyo's subway killed 12 persons and injured thousands.

Because of security concerns, the Pentagon Metro station is being redesigned so that the escalators do not lead into the building.

Arlington County (Va.) Supervisor Christopher E. Zimmerman, a Democrat and Metro board member, said he can see the insurance policy's benefits.

"If you didn't have that, what would happen? The cost would fall to the jurisdictions," he said. "You would probably wind up having to do some kind of bond issue to come up with the capital funds."

Another board member, Katherine K. Hanley, a Democrat and chairman of the Fairfax County (Va.) Board of Supervisors, noted that losing a station could have a significant financial effect.

Mr. Goodine said the insurance policy would help Metro rebuild its tracks if a train owned by Amtrak or the Virginia Railway Express were to derail and damage Metro's lines.

"We're only separated by a fence" from the railroads in some areas, Mr. Goodine said. "If they derail and come on to our side and cause damage, the onus in on us to pay for damage."


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