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Sunday, January 29th, 2023

House bill would restore funding for federal programs that support surface transportation security

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Programs that work to secure railroads, buses, public areas of airports and other “soft targets” for terrorist attacks would be revamped and restored under a bill introduced in the House of Representatives on Monday.

The Surface Transportation and Public Area Security Act of 2017 seeks to authorize $400 million for the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Transit Security Grant Program (TSGP), which supports critical transit agencies.

The bill, introduced by U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), the vice ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, would require TSA to maintain 60 Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams. VIPR teams are stationed at transportation hubs like rail and bus stations.

The House Rules Committee rejected an amendment to the omnibus appropriations bill that would have provided $43 million in funding to VIPR teams in September. Additionally, the Trump Administration has proposed cutting funding for the TSGP program from $88 million to $48 million.

“It has become increasingly clear that the federal government has fallen behind in ensuring that our mass transit systems are secure and safe,” Watson Coleman said. “Knowing that, I am appalled by the Trump administration’s proposal to cut the few existing transit security programs.”

The bill would also make reimbursement of law enforcement of surface transportation available. And funding would be made available to increase the number of canines trained to detect explosives in surface transportation.

“The Surface Transportation and Public Area Security Act of 2017 will finally give transit agencies the resources and tools they need to enhance security and commuters nationwide the assurances of safety they deserve,” Watson Coleman said. “It is imperative that, as federal legislators, we learn from the deadly attacks we’ve seen worldwide and take all the necessary steps to prevent such tragedy on American soil.”