At the annual meeting in January of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, D.C., Deputy Transportation Secretary Michael Jackson addressed a key session, flanked as usual by his key executives, the federal administrators of air, highway, rail and port facilities. But this time, there was a new face around the table as well–John Magaw, head of the newly formed Transportation Security Administration. Intoned Jackson: "9/11 has changed the world of transportation."

In the same way, security experts and concerns now occupy a place at the planning table for every firm involved in the design and construction of transportation facilities. Industry members say security issues were always there, but now the emphasis has changed. Firms that had steady diets of facility expansion and new structures are vying for contracts related to vulnerability assessments and high-tech surveillance and screening as well.

Moving people and goods efficiently between destinations is now complicated by the need to reasonably screen them for weapons, bombs and risk potential. Building accessible, convenient facilities also means considering how to make them not so convenient for terrorists.

"A lot of details we've used for [things such as] maintenance, user-friendliness, ease of access...are not consistent with security issues," notes R. Craig Finley Jr., president of Pasadena, Calif.-based Parsons Transportation Group's bridge and tunnel division. "Ideally, system vulnerabilities should be considered during the planning phase, where counter measures can be designed in." Firms are now coupling defense industry experience with structural and urban planning skills. "Yes, there's a learning curve," says Finley.

LAYOUT Many airport terminal designs have had to be reconsidered for security issues. (Photo courtesy of Carter Burgess)

And there are evolving considerations: the changing tide of public concern with security, uncertain standards for screening requirements at airports, a federal transportation security agency still being staffed and funded, and the impact of reauthorization efforts for the successor to the TEA-21 federal transportation funding program.

Even so, it is clear that technology will play a bigger role than ever and that there are added costs involved. While Maryland Dept. of Transportation Administrator Neil Pedersen predicts that Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) will play a critical role in evacuation plans and in surveillance for highways and rail systems, he adds that "funding trade-off decisions will be a critical planning issue."

The Washington, D.C., subway system recently began a multi-million dollar program to test devices aimed at sniffing out dangerous biochemical agents. New York City Transit estimates it will invest about $500 million to study anti-bioterrorism systems, says Chief Engineer Mysore Nagaraja. The two cities are talking to each other about such systems, but neither will share details of the security measures or how they will be funded.

Even so, the federal government is already churning out money for transportation-related anti-terrorism strategies. The Federal Aviation Administration is spending billions to create a new security system, with a test case study being conducted at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Ports will begin applying for $93.3 million in security funds from the federal DOT's new grants program, beginning in June. Amtrak has already received pledges of $100 million each for tunnels and transit security, just in New York City.

Every transportation mode is a potential hot target: freight trains because they carry hazardous materials; passenger trains that can be derailed; bridges with symbolic significance. But veterans caution against knee-jerk reactions when implementing anti-terrorist measures. "He who protects against everything, protects against nothing," says Doug Fitzgerald, national security and technology director for HDR Inc., Omaha.

"You have to have a holistic approach and a reasonable idea of what you're protecting against. One thing to keep in mind is that the threat is ever-changing," he says.

WHEELING
Identifying the single most vulnerable point of a structure is key to any assessment study, experts say. "Sometimes people will look at a bridge and say, ‘there's only one plane of cables,'" says Finley. "But you can replace one cable. Sometimes that's not the most vulnerable area–then again, it could be. Sometimes a bridge is vulnerable at the cross-bracing." Technologies already used to monitor structures can be used for quick detection in an incident.

One growing concern is dissemination of public information on projects and facilities. "What if a high-school engineering student wrote a letter asking for drawings of a bridge for a class project?" Finley says. Easy access to information can be potentially dangerous, it can also be a "godsend," noted Lawrence Reuter, New York City Transit Authority president, in a TRB session. In addition to providing public service information, the Web allowed authority officials to find out if employees were illegally selling ID badges or maps of the subway system.

Sophisticated products for simulating road evacuation patterns are proliferating now, but design changes are also playing a big role in the security effort. Redundancy of routes is critical to keeping a region functional in case of emergency, say industry officials.

Maryland DOT's Pedersen cites the Washington metropolitan area as an example. There are many routes linking the Nation's Capitol to the Maryland side, but only five to Virginia since the city and the state are largely separated by water.

"If any one Maryland facility has an incident, it won't have the same effect as if just one Virginia facility does," he says. In the future, bridge builders may consider two crossings rather than one single crossing with many lanes, says Pedersen.

Firms such as Parsons Brinckerhoff, New York City, are now performing vulnerability assessments and developing emergency response handbooks for state DOTs. Ellen Engleman, head of the U.S. DOT's Research and Special Programs Administration, added that pipeline systems are undergoing scrutiny and could benefit from new technologies. "We believe in private sector innovation," she says.

SAILING
With sites that stretch along waterfront for miles and are readily accessible, U.S. ports present significant security challenges. "It's not like you can simply put up a big stone wall around a rectangular port and call it secure," says Daniel J. Johnson, project manager specializing in container terminal planning and design in the Oakland office of CH2M Hill Cos. Assessing port security is primarily "a risk-management exercise," adds Doss C. von Brandenstein, the firm's manager for antiterrorism and security planning.

Security upgrades such as lighting, gates, and ID badges are already in place, and some ports are boosting use of gamma ray detection systems to track containers. "Changes are going to be mostly sophisticated changes, not brute-force changes," says Johnson. "You won't see wire fences turning into concrete fences."

Upgrades will run more along the lines of identification systems, high-tech cameras, and passive detection systems for containers. The focus in monitoring potential contraband shipped to ports "is moving from drugs to weapons," Johnson says. Full assessment of port security–as with other transport sectors–requires working with all involved parties."You have a diverse client base...from federal agencies and port authorities to local police and private boat owners," he contends. Von Brandenstein adds that "you have to have all these people working in the same direction."

The U.S. Coast Guard has a limited number of staff to review port security, so it is "likely that port authorities will call upon specialists to get help with voluntary assessments, especially when $93 million in federal funding is released in June," says Johnson.

In the future, ports may establish centralized offsite container inspection facilities similar to those for trucks at border checkpoints, Johnson predicts. "Another change you'll see is with location of facilities for liquid petroleum," he says. "You don't want to put them too close to" populated areas. But Johnson adds that "the jury's still out on where those will be located."

SAFE HARBOR Ports will get grant for security work. (Photo courtesy of The Port of Los Angeles)

FLYING
The aviation sector, affected the most in the post 9/11 era, has its own share of challenges. "The FAA transition taking place right now is confusing everyone, including the FAA," says Keith Henson, security director with Lockwood Greene, in its Knoxville, Tenn., office. Paul Bollinger, vice president of aviation development for Kansas City-based HNTB, is concerned that DOT's new security agency may emphasize security expertise over aviation-related experience in hiring employees.

But firms have plenty to do in aiding airports with design challenges. Henson notes that a security improvement contract at Orlando Airport grew from $10 million to $100 million. Denver-based Carter & Burgess is working on conversion of the Killeen, Texas, airport into a joint-use facility with the Fort Hood Army base. The planned 85,000-sq-ft terminal increased 10% in size with security issues. Project cost went from $17 million to $25 million, says Eric Dillinger, the firm's vice president for facilities management.

Screening machines mandated by federal DOT to be installed in all airports will cost the country $5 billion down the road, says Bollinger. Each 9,500-lb machine costs about $1 million, but also requires more staff and long-term operational and maintenance expenses, he says. Bob Mailloux, Lockwood Greene's global client development director, notes that "real estate at an airport is premium at best...where do you put the detector?"

In figuring out how to include security in future airport design, industry veterans point to an old saying: "If you've seen one airport–you've seen one airport." The best location for concessions and other facilities in relation to security checkpoints can differ markedly depending on the type of airport and public preferences, says Dillinger.

Designers are also facing new federal requirements for airport parking garages, such as increased blast resistance. That could mean precast concrete reinforced walls and laminated glass in place of a lightweight exterior, notes Robert Underwood III, Carter & Burgess division vice president for facilities. The now-required 300-ft terminal setback may increase, with new mandates such as enclosing or reinforcing open areas facing the airport, says Bollinger. "We have a moving target to design to," adds Dillinger. "Some airports are waiting for the standards to stabilize."

Designers and builders are ready to take on the challenges. Says Mailloux: "A capable civil engineer is trained to be knowledgeable about risks."

Introduction: Building For A Secure Future

Feature: Risk assessment

Feature: Environmental design

Feature: Government

Feature: Buildings

Feature: Bioterrorism

Feature: Glass safety