Threat of terrorism on the tracks brings calls for more US funding

May 1, 2004
One day after the March 11 rail bombings in Spain, the United States House Select Committee On Homeland Security began reviewing the only study of its

One day after the March 11 rail bombings in Spain, the United States House Select Committee On Homeland Security began reviewing the only study of its kind done so far on the US rail system produced by Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp (LAEDC) and is under review by the Rand Corp of Santa Monica CA.

“The Alameda Corridor East rail lines moved about $116 billion in goods based on the manufacturer's value in 2000,” said Christopher Becker, executive director of the Orange North-American Trade Rail Access Corridor (OnTrac) Joint Powers Authority. “The street value was much higher for these products. The street values of rail cargo traveling on the Alameda Corridor East in 2000 was $166 billion.”

Becker, who testified in 2003 at the Congressional Railroad Committee hearings, believes Washington should provide more flexible funding for environmentally beneficial rail projects, and significantly more funding for mega projects and grade crossing programs like Alameda Corridor East.

“The threat of terrorism is real on strategic rail corridors with passenger and freight rail service, and we believe that Al Qaeda's apparent interest in rail attacks should be a call to action,” said counterterrorism expert Elsa Lee, chief executive officer of Advantage SCI, Redondo Beach CA. Lee contributed to a Homeland Security report released in 2003 on the anniversary of 9-11.

A copy of the report OnTrac Trade Impact Study: National Economic Significance of Rail Capacity and Homeland Security on the Alameda Corridor East ( or was sent March 12 to the ranking members of the House Select Committee On Homeland Security.

“Increasing capacity of rail moves more consumer and military goods, faster, but at the same time added capacity also increases the wait times for drivers at street-level rail crossings,” said Wally Baker, LAEDC senior vice-president of public policy.

“By 2010, freight train delays alone will increase from the current 31.9 minutes per day at the five-mile, BNSF/Placentia bottleneck to more than three hours. Extended conditions will delay some trains from four to six hours,” Becker said. “Construction of the OnTrac project will at least maintain delays at 26.1-minute average per daily train. After 2025, we expect to see a train every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, and seven days a week on the corridors.”

“The disruption cost of shutting down the Alameda Corridor East represents a $414 million disruption value each day that it is shut down,” said Greg Freeman. LAEDC director of public policy. “A 10-day disruption due to a terrorist attack would cost $4.1 billion, and 30 days' duration would cost $12.4 billion.”

This study was commissioned and published in cooperation with OnTrac Joint Powers Authority and the LAEDC. It was completed as part of the environmental review process for the Alameda Corridor East strategic rail system that goes through Placentia CA.