Just days before terrorist bombs killed 38 people on the Moscow metro, the adequacy of security funding for U.S. ground transportation came under sharp questioning at a Senate hearing in Washington.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), told the hearing, “Perhaps we haven't looked enough at surface transportation safety for buses and trains.” She pointed out that only 2% of the White House TSA budget proposal for fiscal 2011 would go to surface transportation while 68% goes to aviation.
Her comments came on March 23 as Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) chaired a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on the confirmation of Robert Harding to lead the Transportation Security Administration (Harding withdrew his name from consideration on Friday).
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) also expressed concern about the state of ground transportation security.
“I worry that TSA's delay in issuing final regulations for public transportation and railroad training programs has allowed some transportation agencies to ignore security vulnerabilities and avoid providing training to their employees on these transit lines in which literally millions of Americans travel every day,” Lieberman said.
Meanwhile, transit systems beefed up their security in the wake of the Moscow attacks.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority on Monday conducted random inspections of stations and yards with Metro Transit Police K-9 Explosive Ordnance Detection Teams.
“We will remain on a heightened state of security at least through the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit scheduled in Washington in a few weeks [April 12-13] and we are partnering with federal and local law enforcement for security related to that summit,” said Metro Transit Police Acting Chief Jeri Lee.
The New York Police Department on Monday doubled is presence on subway trains.
The New York Police Department on Monday doubled is presence on subway trains.
Brian Michael Jenkins, director of the National Transportation Security Center of Excellence at the Mineta Transportation Institute, noted that authorities have uncovered and defused a number of plots against the New York City subway system in the past.
“Although 100% passenger screening is unrealistic,” said Jenkins, “some systems have implemented selective passenger screening, where some randomly selected passengers voluntarily submit their bags and backpacks for brief inspection. In a diverse society extremely sensitive to profiling and privacy protection, selective screening must be carefully planned and closely managed to maintain public acceptance. However, it remains a useful option where, as in the wake of the Moscow attacks, subway and train systems are taking security up a notch to discourage copycats and malicious pranksters and to reassure passengers.”
The Sacramento Regional Transit District’s Board of Directors board voted Monday to reduce bus and light rail service 22% in an effort to fill an $11 million budget gap. RTD avoided any substantial reduction in security services.
RTD approved a plan to eliminate 28 of its 91 weekday bus routes (about 31% of the total), with other bus routes running on reduced frequency and/or discontinued on weekends. Service starts on both bus and light rail schedules will end after 9 p.m., though service already en route at that hour will continue to operate until completion.
The service reductions will begin June 20.
Kansas City Southern Monday announced the promotion of Warren K. Erdman from executive vice president corporate affairs to executive vice president administration and corporate affairs, effective April 1, 2010. Erdman will report to KCS Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael R. Haverty.
In addition to his current responsibilities for the company’s federal, state, and local government and regulatory affairs, corporate communications, and community relations, Erdman will also have responsibility for the company’s administrative functions, including the legal department, claims, real estate, industrial development, facilities, and railroad police security functions in the U.S. “Warren is a great administrator, civic leader, corporate image promoter,and absolutely critical member of KCS' executive team,” said Haverty. Prior to joining KCS in 1997, Erdman served as chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Christopher S. Bond of Missouri for 10 years. He also served Missouri Gov. John Ashcroft in 1985 and Missouri Gov. Bond between 1981 and 1984.
President Obama during the weekend announced recess appointments for two seats on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Both appointees, Craig Becker and Mark Pearce, are Democrats; a third nominee, Brian Hayes, a staffer for Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), was left behind to be voted on by the Senate.
Three of NLRB’s five seats have been vacant for at least two years; the recess appointments will last only until the end of this year, as opposed to the normal four-year term bestowed NLRB appointees approved by the Senate.
Themove came despite warnings from Republican senators to the President not to use the upcoming Easter recess to make such a move. Becker’s appointment in particular was seen as controversial, and has been stalled after failing a Senate cloture vote last February.
A letter signed by all 41 Senate Republicans suggested the Senate should confirm the two other NLRB nominees, Pearce and Hayes, with the President dropping Becker’s appointment. Republicans consider Becker too pro-union because of his work with the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO.
The deficit-plagued New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority has announced the appointment of Robert E. Foran, a municipal finance expert with 30 years of experience in the industry. as its new chief financial officer.
A former senior managing director at Bear Stearns, Foran is currently a managing director ands advisor at Samuel A. Ramirez & Co. He has been an advisor and banker to major infrastructure issuers , including the MTA.
“Bob's expertise in municipal finance is unparalleled and hisexperience with the MTA means that he will hit the ground running,” said MTAChairman and CEO Jay H. Walder. “His arrival will be critical in helping guidethe MTA through one of the most difficult financial periods in itshistory.”
Foran succeeds Gary J. Dellaverson, who retired in December. David Moretti has filled the position on an acting basis and will return to his full-time position as executive vice president at MTA Bridges and Tunnels.
Amtrak will operate Metrolink regional rail service in Southern California beginning in late June. The deal, announced late last week, will see Amtrak train and engine crews assume operating duties as Metrolink puts enhance safety measures into place.
Amtrak succeeds Connex as the operator; the latter has been under scrutiny since one of its employees was cited as the principal cause of the collision in Chatsworth, Calif., in September 2008, when a Metrolink passenger train crashedinto a Union Pacific freight train, killing 25 and injuring many more.
Metrolink’s current contract with Amtrak is for four years, with the potential for two three-year extensions.
April 2 (Friday) is the deadline for applications to the 2011 Railway Supply Institute Scholarship. RSI provides four $3,000 scholarships to full-time students from around the rail supply community. More than 90 students have received the RSI Scholarship which has contributed to their education in a variety of degrees such as nursing, teaching, engineering, business, and transportation specialists.
Applicants must be currently enrolled as a full-time student at an accredited / post-secondary institution leading to an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree. The applicant must expect to achieve at least Sophomore status in his/her institution by the beginning of the 2010 / 2011 academic year. Ranking of applicants is based on grade point average, content of essay, letters of recommendations, community service, and work and school related activities.
Those eligible for the scholarship must be the son or daughter of a current employee whose company is a current member of the Railway Supply Institute or one of the Coordinated Mechanical Associations (CMA). These include:
Scholarship applications are available online here.
Rider feedback has led Virginia Railway Express officials to revise its proposal to operate new and longer trains, with one of those changes being to terminate and originate some trains at L’Enfant Plaza Station instead of the current Washington, D.C. terminus, Union Station.
Storage capacity at L'Enfant Plaza would allow VRE to to add cars to two Manassas Line trains and four Fredericksburg Line trains.
Rider input solicited by VRE also calls for an express train on the Fredericksburg Line that would leave at 5:05 a.m. and stop only at Leeland Road, Brooke, Alexandria, Crystal City, L'Enfant, and Union Station. VRE officials said the express could trim 20 minutes from a rider's trip into Washington.
VRE chief executive Dale Zehner said both proposals needed to be reworked. Zehner said he is working with CSX, the owner of the tracks, to try to get all evening trains to depart from Union Station. To do so, VRE would need to bring the express train from L'Enfant Plaza to Union Station during the afternoon. But CSX must make sure that doing so would not affect other train operations, VRE officials said. If Zehner cannot reach a deal, one evening train will have to leave from L'Enfant Plaza.
Ansaldo STS USA has appointed Dr. Karen L. Tichenor, Ph.D, Vice President, Quality, HSE and Business Performance. Tichenor most recently was Director of Quality, HSE and Business Performance at Bombardier Transportation. She also served with E.A. Fischione Instruments, Inc. as Director of Engineering, and with Veeco Instruments Inc., as Director of Quality and Kaizen.
Tichenor will be responsible for leading the operation of the Ansaldo STS USA’s Quality and Systems Assurance, and Business Performance throughout the company, including the Manufacturing facility in Batesburg, S.C. She will report directly to theoffice of the President and CEO.
Caltrain says its Board of Directors expects to certify a Final Environemental Impact Report April 1 for its electrification program covering the major portion of its service route. Caltrain began the environmental clearance process for electrification in 2001, but the project has faced numerous delays, mostly due to funding constraints.
Should the EIR be approved, Caltrain will proceed with detailed engineering for the project,which would electrify the rail route between San Jose and San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal.
The EIR evaluated “both electric locomotives and electric multiple unit (EMU) cars,” while noting “Diesel-operated trains could continue to be operated on the Caltrain alignment under electrification,” as well as to points south of San Jose's Tamien Station, terminating in Gilroy, currently served by Caltrain, once electrification is in place. The document adds that the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board “has identified the Electrification Program Alternative with EMU rolling stock as the preferred alternative.”
The EIR also notes “an electrified Caltrain system would set the stage for an expanded modern regional electric express service and, potentially, for a statewide high-speed rail (HSR) service as well. It is anticipated that any future HSR service would be fully electrified. The Electrification Program facilities would be designed to accommodate HSR service as well as Caltrain service.” [Italics are in the document.]