Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Metro’s general manager yesterday told federal lawmakers that he needs more money for security.

“As the recent attacks in Madrid and Moscow illustrate, transit systems continue to be a popular target of terrorists,” said Richard A. White, Metro’s chief executive officer and general manager.

Train bombings in Madrid in March killed 191 persons and wounded more than 2,000, and a February explosion in the Moscow subway killed 41. In remarks prepared for the House Transportation and Infrastructure’s highways, transit and pipelines subcommittee, Mr. White said Metro needs a lot more money to make sure the system is safe from terrorists.

“It would be a national tragedy if we had to wait until another attack similar to Madrid occurred in the United States in order to commit the resources necessary to secure our transit systems,” Mr. White said.

Mr. White told panel members that in the past two years, the Department of Homeland Security has spent more than $9 billion on aviation security — but just $115 million securing transit, which he said carries 16 times the number of people each day. He said unlike with planes, mass transit must focus on more than just deterrence.

“Additional resources are also needed to mitigate the impact of a potential terrorist attack and hasten the recovery after an attack,” Mr. White said. On an average weekday, 670,000 riders use Metrorail and 515,000 use Metrobus.

Metro has received $6.5 million in federal homeland security help in the past two years to deal with areas where it is most vulnerable. All of that money is earmarked for making sure the transit system has redundancy in all of its key operations control areas. That would allow flexibility should the worst occur.

But Mr. White called the $6.5 million figure “a modest level of support” that is not enough to do the job, much less deal with other high-priority security needs. On that list, Mr. White said Metro should have more video cameras on its buses, better public address systems in subway stations and more antiterror equipment for the transit police.

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