ANNAPOLIS – Maryland’s two biggest transportation hubs told the General Assembly Tuesday that they had made very different progress in establishing – and paying for – new anti-terrorism measures.
Officials from Baltimore/Washington International Airport told the Joint Committee for Federal Relations that the airport, selected by the federal Department of Transportation as the nation’s airport security model, anticipated meeting new federal security standards without an expected $200 million in additional costs.
Those costs, stemming from renovations needed to install 40 truck-sized explosive detectors, evaporated when the airport substituted smaller machines that swab luggage for gunpowder and other explosive residue. The airport will still install 15 of the larger detectors but said 13 would fit in the airport’s baggage processing area.
The change continued the positive news for the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, which pays for all road, bridge and other transportation projects in the state. The fund had included the renovation costs as part of $1 billion in potential unbudgeted expenses. In October, the state announced that the Wilson Bridge project – another possible source of unexpected expenses – was under budget with only two outstanding project contracts.
“We all have to realize this is a state of flux . . . at the time they were going to move 40 machines,” said Paul J. Wiedefeld, executive director of BWI. Maryland, he said, would try to tap the TSA for future funding needs.
“We feel that there’s new additional security costs and there’s new additional security budgets and that’s what we should go after,” Wiedefeld said.
BWI expected to meet federal standards requiring screening of all checked baggage by the end of December. The airport’s goal is a 10-minute average security wait for passengers with no baggage-related delays.
Meanwhile, officials at the Port of Baltimore said they’re still unsure about costs or security standards because of delays from the federal government and scant funding.
“Not as much thinking and not as much planning and not as much guidance has been put in place for seaports,” said Kathleen Broadwater, deputy executive director of the Maryland Port Administration. “The nation really focused on airports first . . . we are somewhat behind the airports.”
The port, she said, has made some security changes – including more police, closing public access to the Baltimore World Trade Center and improving fences and lighting. The Port of Baltimore had an advantage, she said, because it was one of five ports to conduct a security assessment before Sept. 11, 2001.
Tuesday, said U.S. Customs Department spokesman Dave Billups, the port took delivery of a $750,000 mobile cargo container inspection machine secured by U.S. Rep. Ben Cardin, D-Baltimore.
Other security upgrades will depend on how much federal money is available.
Congress promised $124 million for port security in November, in addition to $90 million previously earmarked. Public ports estimate that security improvements would cost at least $700 million nationwide, excluding costs at thousands of private ports. The Baltimore port won a $3.2 million grant earlier this year to pay for an access-control system to monitor land and water traffic at the Dundalk Terminal, the port’s “workhorse.” The Maryland Department of Transportation estimates port upgrades could total $12 million, and hopes to secure some federal funding to cover those costs.