Is Obama's Train Ride into the District the Safest Mode of Transporation?

By Matthew Harwood

The environmental organizations Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have sent the Secret Service a letter asking the agency to switch President-elect Barack Obama's arrival into Washington, D.C.,  by train on the weekend before Inauguration Day to a safer mode of transportation.

The president-elect and his family will travel by train from Philadelphia on Saturday, January 17, and arrive in the district by evening. During the trip, they will pick up Vice President-elect Joe Biden and his family in Wilmington, Delaware.

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ABC News reports:

The letter states that the whistle-stop tour is vulnerable to attack due to the threat of hazardous chemicals and cargo along the east coast rail corridor. It also states that even if the President-elect is protected, lots of other folks would be in harm's way if there were an attack on a chemical facility along the route.

Since 9-11, many activist and nonprofit organizations have tried to convince chemical facilities to switch to inherently safer technologies or reroute hazardous supply routes away from city centers or both. The fear is that if an accident occurred or terrorists attacked these targets, millions of people could be exposed to a toxic and life-threatening chemical release.

But there is a simpler security concern as Fred Millar, a Friends of the Earth consultant, told ABC News: "There's only two ways to escape: One is forward and one is backward," referring to railroad tracks.

The letter says other, more typical modes of transportation—such as a car, helicopter, or plane— for the president is a safer bet.

"The itinerary is secret, the travel route is secret, there are decoys that go along with it," Millar said of other modes of transportation.

Linda Douglass, chief spokesperson for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, told ABC News yesterday that the committee has confidence in the security decisions of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Secret Service, which is responsible for designing and implementing the security plan for the inauguration celebrations.


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