High Costs for the TWIC Security Card, But Will It Even Work?

Workers to pay $159 for TWIC card starting in March, but electronic access control won't be working

Hawley said the fee was reasonable for a card that is good for five years and includes high-tech identification verification and a security threat assessment. Drivers who have had background checks, either because they carry hazardous material or cross the border, will pay less, he said.

"It's pretty hard to say,I can't afford $30 a year for a professional credential,'" Hawley said.

Kevin Hayes, vice president for Long Beach Container Terminal Inc., at the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach, said the program could make ports more efficient.

"As a uniform credential, it will speed things up because there will be a lot less thinking involved eventually," he said.

Ultimately, as many as 6 million transportation workers in rail yards, airports and seaports will have to buy the card to gain access to secure areas.

Last April, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced that seaport workers would be checked for links to terrorism and to ensure they are legal U.S. residents. Yet only port workers and longshoremen have been checked so far.