07/14/2005

Local governments called responsible for their mass transit

By LARA JAKES JORDAN
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON- State and local governments must play a large role in helping pay for security measures in subways, trains and bus systems to prevent terror attacks, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Thursday.

One week after the bombings on London's subway and bus systems, Chertoff said the U.S. government is bound to financially support commercial airlines in part because the nation's aviation system is almost exclusively a federal responsibility.

By contrast, he said, U.S. mass transit systems are largely owned and operated by state and local authorities.

"The truth of the matter is, a fully loaded airplane with jet fuel, a commercial airliner, has the capacity to kill 3,000 people," Chertoff told Associated Press reporters and editors. "A bomb in a subway car may kill 30 people. When you start to think about your priorities, you're going to think about making sure you don't have a catastrophic thing first."

State and local officials are grappling with how to pay for upgrades to protect commuters and other mass transit riders in their communities. Technology to protect mass transit systems in the nation's 30 largest metropolitan areas could cost an estimated $6 billion, according to industry representatives..

A Senate fight is looming this week among ranking Republicans who differ - by $900 million - on how much to spend on mass transit security.

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