Virginia Port Authority's Drive for Security

Automated card identity system helps secure port's entry gates for arriving trucks

Responding to c ongressional concerns about the credential program, the Government Accountability Office, Congress' nonpartisan research office, has launched a second audit of the program. The first, done in 2004, found problems with Transportation Security Administration management.

Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Amy Kudwa attributed delays to the project's vast scope and to a presidential directive issued last year affecting the cards. About $70 million has been spent on the program so far.

"We're building this from the foundation upwards," Kudwa said. "It certainly has been a priority, but there are a number of groups that need to be involved in this process and we're working through that to make sure we're doing this the best way possible."

In the meantime, the Port Authority's new gate system will add another layer of security. It will enable the port police to spend more time focusing on anomalies at the gate and less time doing routine truck clearances, Merkle said. Trucks enter and exit the gates at the authority's three terminals about 21,000 times every week.

"It gets the noise out of the way so the officer is really focused on unusual occurrences," Merkle said, "which is what you want the officer to focus on."

The system may add an extra 10 to 12 seconds to the time it takes to be cleared for entry, but overall, truckers should spend less time at the gate because more lanes are being added, he said.

Before it takes effect, the Port Authority is combing through its list of truck drivers and issuing new identification cards to those who should have them.

"It's not bad," said Charles "Chick" Rosemond, a vice president with trucking company Wyatt Transfer Inc., of the new system. "The truckers will just work with the port."

[Virginian-Pilot, The (Norfolk, VA) (KRT) -- 03/10/06]