Transportation Secretary: ‘I Felt Safe’ Riding Amtrak to NY

May 9, 2011 - 2:37 PM

Ray LaHood

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

(CNSNews.com) – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told CNSNews.com that he felt safe riding Amtrak to the nation’s capital over the weekend, but that he was willing to work with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on his ideas for increasing safety measures for trains to help combat potential acts of terrorism.

“I took the train from Washington, D.C. last evening to New York and just came from New York, and I can tell you that it was a safe ride, I felt safe,” LaHood told CNSNews.com during a conference call with reporters.

But, he added, “(W)e’ll work with Senator Schumer and other members of Congress that want to do more in terms of safety, whether it’s on our rails or our planes or cars or whatever, because this is a priority for us.”

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who recently successfully lobbied for upwards of $58 million in high-speed rail funding for New York State, told reporters on Sunday that he wanted to institute a “do not ride” list, similar to the “no-fly” list that is meant to keep potential terrorists from riding in commercial airplanes.

“Anyone, even a member of al-Qaida could purchase a train ticket and board an Amtrak train without so much as a question asked,” Schumer said. “So that’s why I’m calling for the creation of an Amtrak no ride list. That would take the secure flight program and apply it to Amtrak trains.”  

LaHood was on the conference call with reporters to take questions about the new high-speed rail funding the department would be granting, which totals $2.4 billion for all 50 states.

CNSNews.com asked LaHood about Schumer’s comments and train safety in general.

Schumer Foresees Possible 60-Seat Democratic Majority in Senate (image)

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)

“Senator Chuck Schumer recently floated the idea of applying the secure flight program to trains and having kind of a ‘No Ride’ list. Does the administration support heightened security for Amtrak, especially in light of these new high speed investments?” CNSNews.com asked.

LaHood said, “I took the train from Washington, D.C. last evening to New York and just came from New York, and I can tell you that it was a safe ride, I felt safe.”

“As some of you know, every passenger’s name is listed as a part of the manifest for the train and they look at these names,” said LaHood. “During each stop along the way, whether it was in Baltimore or Wilmington or on up to New York, they brought dogs on that were obviously trained to look for explosive devices.”

However, LaHood also said he would work with Schumer and others on their ideas.

“The other thing that I said today is that we’ll work with Senator Schumer and other members of Congress that want to do more in terms of safety,” LaHood told CNSNews.com, “whether it’s on our rails or our planes or cars or whatever, because this is a priority for us. So, we intend to be very vigilant about safety and we’ll continue to work with Congress on whatever ideas they have about improving safety.”

“Throughout the last two-and-a-half years that I’ve been in this job, you all know my passion for safety in all of these different modes of transportation, and we will always make safety our number one priority,” said LaHood.