Friday, January 12, 2007

$25 million set for Bay Area security

Posted on Wed, Jan. 10, 2007

$25 million set for Bay Area security
By Renee Koury
Mercury News

The Bay Area will get $25 million in federal funds out of $445 million to be distributed nationwide to help protect buses, trains, ferries, ports and passengers against possible terrorist attacks.

The Bay Area was designated by the Department of Homeland Security as one of eight major urban areas at ``high risk'' in case of a terrorist attack. The risk is measured by the potential threat to the region, the vulnerability of people and structures, and the potential toll on human life and economic vitality, said homeland security spokeswoman Joanna Gonzalez.

Though funds are generally earmarked for each region, transportation agencies still must apply for the grants and state exactly how funds would be used, she said.

In the Bay Area, bus and rail systems including the Valley Transportation Authority, BART, the San Francisco Municipal Railway and Caltrain, can apply for part of $13.8 million set aside for improving safety on the region's bus and rail systems.

An additional $584,000 is set aside to protect the local ferry systems. Agencies qualified to apply for these funds include the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District, the Blue & Gold Fleet, the city of Alameda ferries and the city of Vallejo ferry system.

The Bay Area's four major ports, identified by the federal government as San Francisco, Richmond, Oakland and Stockton, can apply for part of $11.2 million set aside for Bay Area port safety.

``The funding in the past has been uneven,'' said Sidonie Sansom, chief of homeland security for the San Francisco Port. ``This year we have a chance to do more of the projects we've already started.''

The ports have installed high security gates with previous grants. Sansom could not say how new funds might be used, but said the four ports might collaborate on projects because of the interdependence of the waterways.

At Bay Area Rapid Transit District, spokesman Linton Johnson said funds might be used for security cameras, extra police, bomb sniffing dogs or other projects.

The grants were announced Tuesday by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in Washington. ``We're investing resources where risk is greatest and where the funds will have the most significant impact,'' Chertoff said. ``This year's grants reflect a rigorous, disciplined approach that places risk first, driven by hard analysis from the intelligence community and supported by common sense.''

Chertoff said the grants were expected to be awarded in the spring, but that recipients will have to submit thorough plans that spell out how they plan to use the money to reduce their risk of a terror attack.

Nearly half the nationwide grant money, $201 million, would be used to secure ports and subway systems, including Amtrak. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey would get the biggest share of those funds, $27.2 million.

The New Orleans region, devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, will get $17.3 million, followed by $15.7 million for the Houston area.

The Department of Homeland Security set aside $172 million to protect the nation's transit systems, with New York City and northern New Jersey getting the largest cut of $61 million. This year, money for rail and bus systems is combined, so recipients can decide which system needs more attention, Chertoff said.

Washington, D.C., and the Baltimore area will get $18.5 million, the Boston area $15.3 million, followed by the San Francisco Bay Area at $13.8 million. Amtrak will get $8.3 million.

Transit funding this year includes 19 ferry systems in 14 regions in California, Connecticut, southern New Jersey and Delaware, northern New Jersey and New York City, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington state.

Intercity bus systems and trucking safety will each get $11.6 million. And Homeland Security set aside $48.5 million for ``buffer zone protection'' which would provide security around critical facilities such as chemical plants.

The Homeland Security funding figures came as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg testified before a Senate hearing considering further legislation to enact recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission.

Bloomberg told the Senate Homeland Security Committee that the city was long overdue to get its fair share of anti-terrorism grants. He compared the current system to spreading dollars ``across the country like peanut butter.''

``For the sake of New York City and the security of our nation, I hope you will stop writing politically derived formulas into homeland security bills,'' Bloomberg told the senators.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Renee Koury at

© 2007 and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

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