Bill has $3.5 billion for transit. (Photo courtesy of WMATA)

The Senate has approved two bills that authorize a combined $4.6 billion to boost security on railroads and transit systems, but even if the measures are enacted, actual appropriations this year are likely to be much lower than the bills recommend.

The rail and transit measures cleared the Senate on Oct. 1 by unanimous consent. The railroad bill authorizes $1.1 billion, including $662 million over five years to make safety improvements to aging tunnels on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor. Six tunnels in New York City would get $570 million, tunnels in Baltimore would receive $60 million and one in Washington, D.C., would get $32 million.

In addition, Amtrak would receive $63.5 million for other security upgrades on its lines. The measure also authorizes $350 million for security grants for which freight railroads are eligible.

The transit measure authorizes $3.5 billion, a significant cut from the $5.2 billion in the version that the Senate banking committee approved in May. Of the $3.5 billion, $2.4 billion would go for capital improvements, with the money authorized in 2005 but "available until expended," the legislation says. The bill allots $1 billion for security operations at transit agencies, with $534 million authorized in 2005, $333 million in 2006 and $133 million in 2007. It also provides $130 million for security research and development.


Each bill requires the Dept. of Transportation to reach memorandum of understanding with the Dept of Homeland Security to spell out the departments' respective responsibilities for these transportation modes. The deadlines for the memoranda are 45 days after enactment for transit and 60 days for rail.

In the House, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Sept. 29 approved a transit security bill that would provide $1.7 billion over three years for capital projects and $900 million for operations.

There has been less progress in the House on rail security. In June, transportation committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) introduced a railroad security measure that would authorize $1.1 billion, including the same amount as the Senate-passed measure for the Amtrak tunnels and for other railroad security grants. But there has been no further action yet on Young's proposal.

Although the funding levels in the Senate bills are substantial, appropriators have been much less generous in fiscal 2005 homeland security spending bills heading for a House and Senate conference. The House version has $111 million for rail and transit security; the Senate bill has $165 million.