Area ports get no security funds from government

The Bush administration doled out nearly $400 million Monday to help protect seaports, commuter trains and other transit systems from terrorists, including BART and Caltrain, but stiffed area ports.

While some transit experts scrambled to try to determine what, if any, money their agency would receive, BART announced it would get at least $300,000 with a possible $3.9 million to come later on. On the Peninsula, Caltrain said it would receive nearly $900,000, with an additional $280,000 going to its sister bus operator, SamTrans.

Whether Muni would receive any funds wasn’t known by press time Monday evening, according to spokeswoman Maggie Lynch. In total, the Department of Homeland Security announced infrastructure protection grants, including $11.2 million for transit security in the Bay Area, which breaks down to $8.4 million for rail security, $2.1 million for bus security and $700,000 for ferries.

“It’s still inadequate…,” San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said of the new funding. “$400 million is a drop in the bucket. It’s an embarrassment, to be quite frank.”

The federal government largely bypassed Bay Area ports of call in the security grants, with less than $1.2 million set aside for Richmond’s port, and San Francisco and Oakland ports receiving nothing.

Despite applying for the grants, and holding the status of high-risk ports, the Port of Oakland and the Port of San Francisco each received no money from the Department of Homeland Security’s fiscal year 2006 Port Security Grant Program. “We didn’t get anything,” said Marilyn Sandifur, spokeswoman for the Port of Oakland. “We’re certainly disappointed, but we will be seeking funds on an ongoing basis.” Sandifur said the Port of Oakland asked the Department of Homeland Security for $6 million in federal funds to match a $2 million local contribution intended to pay for four port security-related projects. She said the projects focused on communication, access control, intrusion detection and waterside security. If voters pass a statewide infrastructure bond measure in November, the port will apply for some of those funds, Sandifur said. “We do feel good about the baseline quality of security here in Oakland,” Sandifur said. “But we all know security is a work in progress.”

The sole port-related local federal funding this fiscal year was a $1,185,716 grant to the Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff, which patrols the port area in Richmond. Ports in San Francisco and Oakland have taken in about $9.7 million and $3.7 million respectively since the grants were introduced following the 9/11 attacks. The Port of Richmond has received almost $4.8 million since fiscal year 2002. By contrast, the largest port in the U.S., the Los Angeles/Long Beach complex, has received about $91 million to enhance port security since 2002.

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