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 Amtrak’s Riders and Infrastructure

J.F. McGinleySmith

Philadelphia –  Beneath the coffered ceiling and art-Deco chandeliers nearly 5,000 thousand daily passengers stream across the Tennessee Marble floors of Bill Gray & Amtrak’s 30th Street Station.

Surrounded by leadership of Amtrak’s Police force in the east wing  of 30th Street Station, U.S. Senator Bob Casey referred to the 9-11 communications problems, Monday, as he called on the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to  correct an “unfortunate gap and defect in federal policy” that is preventing “Amtrak law enforcement officers who are trying to do their job on railways across the country.”

After stressing his “concern for the safety” of passengers, rail infrastructure and the ‘stations themselves,” Sen. Casey noted that Amtrak annually carried millions passengers from train stations in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Lancaster, New York, Washington D.C. and Chicago along its 21,000 miles of track.

In a letter sent to Thomas Wheeler, Chairman of the FCC, Sen. Casey recommended  “modification” of FCC rules that would facilitate an upgrade to Amtrak’s radio communications: “Amtrak Police are responsible not only for the security for these passengers, but for the security of more than 500 destinations, as well as rail lines that connect those stations.”

“Amtrak police need the tools that will facilitate communication with the state and local law enforcement as well as other public safety organizations,” he said, “to enforce laws and respond to emergencies as quickly and effectively as possible.”

The issue specifically addressed in Sen. Casey’s letter to the FCC, requested enabling Amtrak Police to have access to the 700 MHz Band. The enhanced radio frequency would enable Amtrak’s law enforcement communications to easily penetrate buildings, walls and cover significantly larger distances.

The letter to FCC Chairman Wheeler also highlighted the support of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Department of Transportation, Association of American Railroads and the Federal Railroad Association, who all agreed on the necessity of Amtrak Police having access to these “safety frequencies.”

“Rail is an integral part of how Pennsylvanians and Americans Travel, as well as being critical to economic growth,” added Sen. Casey.

David Pearlson, President of Amtrak Police FOP, lamented that Amtrak’s Police force were currently operating with “radio  systems of pre-9/11 design.”  Mr. Pearlson added that they appreciated Sen. Casey’s efforts to upgrade an “archaic” communications systems and bring “Amtrak Police into the 21st Century.”

The report of the 9-11 commission found that the radio communications used by Fire and Police departments following the attacks on the WTC were hampered by the lack of interoperability and failed network infrastructure.