Security funds go to securing county transit

SAN CARLOS — Video cameras, bomb-sniffing K-9s and improved communications equipment are on Caltrain’s wish list following the announcement of new federal Department of Homeland Security funds.

Caltrain expects to install cameras on the engines of all its trains to watch the tracks beginning next summer, with other improvements such as fencing and cement barriers to keep potential terrorists from driving onto the tracks near stations to be phased in later.

Trash cans will also be upgraded to prevent someone from dropping a bomb into one and walking away, spokesman Jonah Weinberg said.

The new capital investments will be paid for with $400 million in federal funds announced Monday and distributed to seaports, commuter trains and other transit systems.

Caltrain garnered funds for a third straight year, taking in about $880,000 from Homeland Security, its largest grant yet, officials said.

In addition, the county’s bus operator, SamTrans, received $280,000 from Homeland Security, its first grant.

“Caltrain and SamTrans will use the funds for increased security services and operating costs associated with heightened alerts issued by the Department of Homeland Security,” Weinberg, spokesman for both agencies, said. “We could always use more money, but we’re making the best possible use of the money to ensure the best possible security for our patrons and infrastructure.”

While no transit system is foolproof, Homeland Security’s investment in protecting public transit is prudent, said Jim Hartnett, Redwood City councilman and Caltrain and SamTrans board member.

“In general, we have to recognize the transportation systems are vulnerable and we have to take reasonable steps to protect them,” he said.

SamTrans will primarily use the money to increase security patrols, but also for K-9s, Weinberg said.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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