State gives BART $2.9M for security

Responding to concerns that the BART system is vulnerable to a terrorist attack, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger allocated $2.9 million of state Homeland Security funds to the transit agency, state officials said Wednesday.

The money will be used as part of a $37 million effort to strengthen the Transbay Tube, according to BART officials.

BART Board Vice President Lynette Sweet called the Transbay Tube, the 3.6-mile underwater train passageway that stretches along the floor of the San Francisco Bay between Oakland and San Francisco, a “very, very vulnerable piece of equipment.”

The security enhancement would be done in conjunction with seismic retrofit work, funded through a $980 million bond measure approved by voters in 2004, said Sweet, who called the terrorism prevention work “hardening the infrastructure.”

Citing security concerns, Sweet and other BART officials would not given further details on the terror-prevention project. BART carries more than 326,000 weekday riders.

Mass-transit systems have become high-profile targets worldwide for terrorists, the governor’s office noted in a news release about the funding for BART. In recent years, bombs have been set off on trains in London, Madrid and Mumbai.

“With the five-year anniversary of 9/11 less than a month away and subsequent terror attacks in cities around the world, we need to always remain vigilant and continue to strengthen the security of all potential targets,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement released to the media.

Although large cities in the Bay Area received tens of millions of dollars in federal Urban Area Security Initiative funds in the years following the Sept. 11 attacks, BART has been underfunded, Sweet and other BART officials said. San Francisco has received nearly $68 million in federal funds in the last five years, according to The City’s Office of Emergency Services and Homeland Security.

“We’ve always asked for more, it was just not heard,” Sweet said, adding that the total amount of Urban Area funds the agency has received to date is $188,000. “We’re not owned by the city of Oakland, not owned by the city of San Francisco; when money’s coming in, the cities have been taking care of their own security needs.”

The $2.9 million of funds provided to BART is part of the state’s allotment of federal Homeland Security funds. Last month, Mayor Gavin Newsom, along with Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, sent a letter to Schwarzenegger asking the governor to direct a portion of the state’s discretionary Urban Area Security Initiative funds to BART. The mayors noted that the transit agency faced a “serious security” risk.

Anne Marie Conroy, executive director of OESHS, said the large number of security needs makes it “very hard to make decisions” on where the money is best spent. Getting state funds for BART, a regional system, was vital, she said.

beslinger@examiner.com

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