“My amendment offers a very simple fix that can significantly improve the safety for the Philadelphia region,” said Casey. “The problems with radios of the first responders at the World Trade Center taught us the importance of being able to communicate during a disaster. However, because of a glitch in federal law, SEPTA has not been able to fully use federal funds to upgrade their communications system.”
Faye L. M. Moore, General Manager of SEPTA said, “SEPTA thanks Senators Casey and Specter for their support of Homeland Security funding to improve safety and security of public transportation and applauds their introduction of language to the Homeland Security Appropriations bill that would give transit operators adequate time to commit Homeland Security funding.”
Currently the SEPTA communications system does not permit communication inside the commuter tunnel network and underground concourses. SEPTA is working to develop a system that will allow the Authority to effectively participate in all emergency response and recovery actions which may occur in the system’s tunnel system.
Current federal regulations do not allow SEPTA to adequately plan and expand the funds necessary to implement an interoperable communication system. The federal restrictions require SEPTA to spend homeland security funds within a three-year time period. Senator Casey’s amendment would extend the time period in the FY 2008 Transit Security Grant Funds to four years and allow SEPTA to upgrade their radio systems.
Earlier this year, Senator Casey sent a letter to Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Homeland Security Appropriations Committee requesting that SEPTA eliminate the time limitation for expenditures of funding appropriated for transit security upgrades.
SEPTA is the fifth largest public transportation system in the nation and it provides a network of fixed route service including: bus, subway-surface, regional rail, light rail, trackless trolley, and paratransit service.
Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) is a cosponsor of the Amendment.