Securing Our Nation's Highway System
Our hearts go out to our fellow Americans who lost loved ones last year on September 11. This tragic event signaled the need for all of us to remain vigilant in protecting our homeland. We can no longer rely on two vast oceans and two friendly neighbors to insulate the United States from terrorism. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is determined to do our part to secure and protect our American homeland.
America's highway system contains 4 million highway miles, almost 600,000 bridges, and 400 highway-related tunnels—with 5 million passenger miles traveled annually and 72 percent of U.S. freight moved across the system in some manner. How can FHWA, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and the many State, local, and private highway infrastructure owners and operators begin to ensure that the Nation's enormous highway system is reasonably secure from future malevolent attacks and that it is available for response activities should another unforeseeable attack happen on U.S. soil? This vital question has been the focus of much highway community collaboration and activity since the attacks of September 11 fundamentally changed the way of life in America.
The answer to the question is complex but lies in the extreme dedication and coordination of Federal, State, local, and private highway system stakeholders, who all play their own crucial roles. FHWA is one member of a broader U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) surface transportation security team, which includes other USDOT surface transportation operating administrations, the USDOT Office of Intelligence and Security, and the relatively new Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Eventually expected to be part of the proposed Department of Homeland Security, TSA will soon play a leading role in setting surface transportation security standards and policies. FHWA's highway security role focuses on facilitating communications and partnerships, assembling and distributing best practices, providing training, engaging in effective research, and distributing threat information received from intelligence organizations.
Given the strong FHWA-State relationships and extensive ownership of critical highway infrastructure by the State departments of transportation, FHWA is collaborating extensively with AASHTO to concentrate on the most effective highway security initiatives, some of which include:
- Developing and distributing best practices for determining critical highway infrastructure, assessing vulnerability to attack, and developing effective countermeasures
- Assembling a nationally recognized panel of structural experts to advise on short- and long-term strategies for improving the security of critical bridges and tunnels
- Facilitating a series of workshops throughout the country to improve emergency preparedness for response and recovery to attacks and other disruptive events
- Engaging in national dialogues to develop priorities for security research and training
Securing America is a challenge of monumental scale and complexity. FHWA and other highway stakeholders are "stepping up" to ensure that a more secure highway system leads to a safer homeland.
David A. Price, Program Manager
Transportation Security, FHWA