Comstock introduces legislation to strengthen public transportation safety, security

With a goal of protecting millions of U.S. public transit system users against potential threats, U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) introduced a bill to improve security for high-risk public transit locations and to give law enforcers better training to address vulnerability gaps.

Comstock joined with U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), both co-chairs of the House Public Transportation Caucus, in introducing the Securing America’s Facilities, Equipment and Rails: Taking Responsibility for American National Security In Transit (SAFER TRANSIT) Act on Monday.

Under the bill, the Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response program, deployed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to step-up law enforcement and terrorism deterrence efforts at high-risk public transportation hubs, would be renewed. The program expired in 2011.

The SAFER TRANSIT Act would also reauthorize Department of Homeland Security (DHS) research programs, which help public transit operators identify and address infrastructure vulnerabilities like explosive detection, through 2020.

Comstock said she introduced the legislation to ensure rail and bus carriers are safe, given that the nation’s transportation systems are operating under an increased threat level.

“With a constantly evolving threat environment the TSA needs to take the lead in the proper oversight of critical transportation systems. Unfortunately, key provisions of the 9/11 Act have not gone into effect, and this legislation will help keep our transportation systems safe,” Comstock said.

The DHS Federal Law Enforcement Training Center would administer a transit security training program under the bill. The Intercity Bus Security Grant Program, which trains truck and bus drivers and supports facility security upgrades, passenger screening and vehicle security, would be renewed.

“Critical passenger rail safety requirements from the 9/11 Act have yet to be implemented, including a regulation for rail carriers to complete security assessments, a regulation for rail security training, and a program for conducting background checks on rail employees,” Lipinski said. “With ever-growing security concerns across the nation, our bill directs the TSA to develop a process to follow through on critical security provisions.”