Port, transit security money doubles for Bay Area

The Bay Area will receive twice as much federal security funding for port and public transit facilities as it did last year in what local officials called a positive step away from early funding inequities that favored areas with no terror targets.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has yet to award the $54 million set aside for the Bay Area, but its announcement Friday marked the beginning of the process for applying for those funds. By this summer, the agency expects to award those grants to the local transit and port agencies, and will likely be focused on surveillance systems.Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday praised the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for its dramatic hike in funds to California under a new system that focuses on urban areas designated most likely to be attacked.

"Federal officials clearly understand the unique risks facing our state and recognize the significant work that has been done in California so far," the governor said in a prepared statement.

Under the Transit Security Grant Program, the Bay Area's funding increased 104 percent to $28.2 million of the $388.6 million nationwide program, which increased $117 million over the previous year. Last year, DHS allocated $13.8 million to the Bay Area.

The Bay Area will also get $25.5 million from the Port Security Grant Program for fiscal year 2008, or 82 percent more than the $14 million the region got in fiscal year 2007. Nationally, DHS will award $390 million in port security grants, $76 million more than the previous year.

This spring, both transit and port agencies will apply for the funding. In 2007, the transit money was shared by San Francisco's Muni system, Bay Area Rapid Transit, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, Caltrain and the Altamont Commuter Express.

BART is using more than $5 million of that money to install security cameras throughout its system, and BART board member Bob Franklin said he believes area transit systems will likely be buying a lot more cameras and improved systems with the increased funding.

At the Port of Oakland, officials' security priorities also include the integration of video surveillance and intrusion detection systems, creating a port monitoring and coordination center and further improvements to the way people and cargo entering the port are screened, said port spokeswoman Marilyn Sandifur.

The funding change is built around DHS's system of ranking urban areas by their risk of terror attacks. The Bay Area is one of eight Tier I metropolitan areas for transit, along with New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta and Philadelphia.

In the early years of the program, rural areas that seemed unlikely terror targets, such as California's remote Alpine County, received allocations that amounted to more than $200 per resident, while target-heavy areas like Alameda County received less than $5 per capita in funding.

Staff writer Francine Brevetti contributed to this story.