- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 21, 2002


Regional leaders will seek $130 million in federal funds for an emergency plan to help protect metropolitan Washington-area roads and public transit.

The need was outlined in the latest report from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government's Task Force on Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, presented at yesterday's Transportation Planning Board meeting.

The board unanimously approved a list of unfunded recommendations to improve transportation security.

The plan recommends the development of a secure command center for bus and rail operations, at an estimated cost of $50 million.

About $20 million worth of security monitoring devices are needed, regional leaders say.

Federal funds are already being used to upgrade traffic signals, the report said, and the group would ask for $25 million to install additional devices such as message signs, lane-control signals and gates on entrance and exit ramps.

The full board is to vote on the emergency transit plan later this month. Local leaders then will send the report to Congress to ask for the total cost of $130 million.

In addition to the funding request, the task force discussed how to work with the 17 different regional governments in case of emergency.

Committee Chairman John Mason of Fairfax County said the plan is to have the jurisdiction where an emergency occurs take the lead in contacting other regional leaders.

It is not clear what would happen if an emergency occurs on federal property.

"It is not perfect, but as good a system a region like Washington can come up with," Mr. Mason said.

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