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8/26/2005
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New York Spends $212M To Protect Transit Systems From Terrorists

The new system for protecting the city's subways, bridges, tunnels, and railroads will be built by Lockheed Martin. It'll include cameras that can swivel and zoom, software that triggers alerts, and an underground wireless network.

New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority is planning a sophisticated video-surveillance system and underground wireless network that could prove to be a model for protecting U.S. transit systems and their passengers from terrorist attacks.

The agency awarded a three-year, $212 million contract to Lockheed Martin Corp., which will use a handful of subcontractors to build an integrated technology environment that combines closed-circuit television cameras, motion-detecting sensors, security software, and decision-support software, for monitoring subways, bridges, tunnels, and railroads. "The key here is the integration of all these different components in such a large environment," says Mark Bonatucci, a Lockheed program director who will oversee the project. "That's the cutting-edge part of this particular system."

Lockheed also will develop a radio-communications system that will link the transit authority police force with law-enforcement agencies, including the New York Police Department, the Homeland Security Department, and the New York Port Authority. A contract for a wireless network that connects 277 underground subway stations to above-ground cellular towers will go out for bid later this year, with a condition that the selected wireless carrier must make the resulting network available to its competitors.

The New York agency's announcement last week of the new system comes several weeks after a pair of terrorist attacks hit the London Underground subway system in a two-week period, renewing questions about why New York's transit authority had yet to spend most of the $591 million it set aside in July 2003 to fund an approved security plan. A transit authority spokesman says the awarding of the Lockheed Martin contract is on target with the agency's time line.

But while some might see the contract as too long in coming, it's ahead of most U.S. transit systems. Public agencies nationwide likely will watch its development, as it represents one of the biggest investments to date in U.S. ground transit security. London, by comparison, has an extensive surveillance network, which investigators heavily studied following the recent attacks. The New York system, with cameras that can swivel and zoom and will be programmed to trigger alerts of suspicious activity, will be designed to do a better job of preventing attacks.

Earlier this month, a report written by former 9/11 Commission staffer Bill Johnstone for the Center for American Progress, a Washington security policy think tank, urged the federal government to drastically increase its spending on anti-terrorist efforts for mass-transit systems. The feds are spending just $150 million a year on mass-transit security through Homeland Security and another $38 million annually through the Federal Transit Administration.

The Metrorail subway system in Washington, D.C., has offered cell-phone coverage since 1993 but will soon be behind New York in video surveillance. Some 1,500 closed-circuit cameras can be found throughout the Metrorail system, but the stationary cameras are used to help solve crimes after the fact or to monitor areas where an event has been reported.

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