Jul. 7--The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will begin screening passengers at the Exchange Place PATH station in Jersey City next week using new technology that detects explosives from a distance.
The program, which will begin Thursday and last for two weeks, is designed to test machines that would block threats, including a suicide bomber trying to enter a rail station.
"The data we get out of this will indicate which technologies and procedures should be further developed and refined, in order to make the mass commuter rail and subway systems as safe as possible," said Christopher Kelly, a spokesman for Homeland Security's science and technology directorate.
Ideally, the machines are designed to screen passengers in a high-traffic area, in which every person does not pass through an airport-style security device. One device detects objects concealed between the clothing and skin -- the space where suicide bombers often hide their explosives.
Some passengers will be selected for up-close screening, Kelly said. They could be delayed for a few minutes while they are checked at the street-level entrance to Exchange Place.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns and operates the PATH system, agreed to participate in the trials. Kelly said the Port Authority "has been a leader in identifying opportunities for upgrading security systems."
PATH handled almost 61 million passengers last year, according to the Port Authority. Kelly said Exchange Place was chosen because it is a critical junction for moving commuters to downtown Manhattan.
The trials are the second phase of a rail security project mandated by Congress after the attacks on railroads in Spain in 2004 and England one year ago today. The first phase was conducted in February, when commuters passed through airport-style security machines at Exchange Place.
Kelly said the department would not release any first-phase results before it briefs Congress in the fall.
The department will demonstrate the equipment for local officials and community leaders in Jersey City on Tuesday morning, said Maria Pignataro, a spokeswoman for Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy.
"We need to keep people safe," Pignataro said. "So many people pass through here on a daily basis."
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