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Federal Highway Administrator Mary Peters
Remarks as prepared for delivery
Panel on Security and Recovery
"Security for Domestic Transportation Infrastructure"
Transportation Research Board
Monday, January 14, 2002
Washington, D.C.

The surface transportation system is vital to our nation's economy, defense, and quality of life. As Secretary Mineta has said, mobility is one of our great American freedoms.

We want to keep our infrastructure safe -- and make it much less vulnerable to attack.

Addressing potential threats to the highway system is particularly challenging because of the openness of the system. Several strategies will help us accomplish this to the greatest extent possible. We need to be vigilant and adaptive.

Except in a few major metropolitan areas, and except during peak periods even in those areas, the system usually has redundant capacity. There are alternate routes and alternate transportation modes. Although a single attack could cause significant destruction and distress, as well as compromise public confidence in the transportation system, it would be difficult for a single attack to shut down a large city or a major part of our transportation system for an extended period of time.

State DOT experience with transportation facilities closing as a result of natural disasters, such as the Northridge and Loma Prieta earthquakes, indicate that transportation system redundancy and the ability of individuals to make a variety of short-term adjustments in travel patterns make rapid recovery possible.

The system is resilient.

That being said, however, we are working to increase state and local transportation agencies' understanding of emergency planning and operations. We want to make sure that they have the tools, technology and information they need in order to carry out their duties to the greatest extent possible under emergency conditions, working with all of the necessary partner agencies.

Shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Secretary Mineta created a National Infrastructure Security Committee at DOT to focus on intermodal security issues and to coordinate the department's security focus across all modes.

The Federal Highway Administration began by working with state DOTs and local transportation agencies to identify their most high-consequence, high-value, high-vulnerability facilities.

We are sharing the vulnerability assessment process with state DOTs. We will provide copies of the process to FHWA Divisions to share with their state and local partners.

We are holding regional emergency management workshops, focused on emergency management planning to prepare for evacuations, quarantines, and restoration of transportation operations should it be necessary following an emergency. We want to support communication links between public safety departments and transportation agencies responsible for operations.

We are preparing case studies on the transportation response to Sept. 11 in the Washington metro area and the New York City metro area, along with the Howard Street Tunnel Fire in Baltimore and the Northridge earthquake in California. We also need to look for best practices beyond our industry.

We are preparing an emergency preparedness checklist that state and local agencies will be able to use to assure that a safe and reliable transportation operation is an integral part of their emergency management and response plans. We're also looking at the kinds of tools transportation operations agencies need to help them in planning and carrying out wide-area evacuations.

ITS technology can play a significant role in emergency response as well as in emergency protection. We plan to:

  • Open solicitation for ITS deployment projects focused on improving security. This program could give us some outstanding examples of how to make use of the full information sharing and data exchange capabilities of the transportation system to support planning for emergencies.

  • Hold a Freight Technology Expo on April 27, giving vendors an opportunity to showcase technology that would make freight shipment, particularly shipments of hazardous material, more secure.

  • Run three freight ITS operations tests for security and add one or two more.

Along with AASHTO and ITS America, we are sponsoring a national conference on incident and emergency management March 11-13 in Irvine, CA. We are working closely with partners such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the International Association of Fire Chiefs to establish broad participation in this pioneering effort.

We plan to conduct a set of tabletop exercises for state DOTs and military counterparts on sudden military deployments.

To assist state DOTs, AASHTO established a Task Force on Transportation Security. The task force includes state transportation officials and representatives of USDOT and the Department of Defense.

The task force's charge is to establish guidelines and share practices that help state DOTs prepare vulnerability assessments of their highway infrastructure assets, develop deterrence/surveillance/protection plans, and develop emergency response plans and capabilities for handling traffic from major incidents.

The task force has identified short-term action items that will be completed in the next 60 to 90 days:

  • Prepare a vulnerability assessment handbook for state DOTs for use in identifying critical infrastructure and preparing vulnerability assessments.

  • Prepare a legislative proposal for special national security funding of highway facilities and operations needed to enhance security and military mobilization needs.

  • Establish an AASHTO-secured web site for sharing information (vulnerability studies, countermeasure strategies, contact lists) among state DOTs.

  • Conduct a survey among state DOTs to establish baseline information on such things as contact points, security studies underway, and completed security studies.

The task force also will cooperate with a wide variety of organizations to assess security needs for other modes including transit, rail, and ports, as well as intermodal connections. Administrator Jenna Dorn and the Federal Transit Administration are an integral part of the effort.

Security is crucial. While we know we can't completely eliminate risk and vulnerability, the Federal Highway Administration will continue to work on all fronts to improve transportation for a strong America. That means improving safety, reducing congestion, and managing our highway system in ways that support economic growth and vitality. Security, mobility and vitality all remain important to USDOT.

All of DOT -- every mode -- is engaged in long-term public and private partnerships to do the best we can to protect the security and mobility of the American people. We are your Department of Transportation.

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