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US slices federal funds for MBTA security

Key operations not affected, officials say

Federal security funding for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has been cut in half, part of a sharp decline for the transit agency in recent years and a nationwide drop in grants to local and state authorities.

Officials at the MBTA said the agency applied for more than $15 million in security grants, but will receive just $3.25 million, down from $6.6 million in 2012.

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The decline will not affect police staffing levels or some planned security improvements, but it means the agency cannot undertake a range of projects, such as additional security measures at stations, yards, and tunnels.

An MBTA official said he was disappointed by the drop in funding but said the agency had not counted on the money and it would not affect core operations.

“We’re pragmatic and understand the reality of the federal budget,” said Randy Clarke, the MBTA’s senior director of security and emergency management.

In 2009, the MBTA received $29 million from the Homeland Security Department, but grants have dropped since then.

This year, the department reduced grants by $74 million nationally.

“There’s less money to go around,” Clarke said.

Despite the cuts, the department allocated more than $1.5 billion to states and urban areas.

The New York transportation authority received $22.5 million, while the Bay Area transit system in California received almost $13 million. The Los Angeles transit system received $7 million, as did Chicago’s CTA.

With federal funding awarded several years ago, the MBTA established a $10 million emergency training center that opened in June. Built in an abandoned tunnel in South Boston, the center provides a replica of a train station to prepare responders for an emergency in the underground system.

Last month, Representative Bill Keating revealed the Boston area had received more than $17.5 million in total homeland security grants, an increase of nearly $7 million.

“I have consistently advocated to, at the very least, maintain homeland security funding levels because there is simply no room for cuts when it comes to preparedness,” he said in a prepared statement.

In light of the Boston Marathon bombings in April, homeland security funding is “the last place we should be seeing cuts,” he said.

Keating, a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said the response to the bombings showed the value of security spending.

“It was not a matter of luck or happenstance that the Boston and Watertown Police Departments and state and federal emergency response personnel were so well-prepared; it was proactive investment and painstaking training,” Keating said.

Several local agencies received smaller grants, including the Massachusetts Port Authority, the state environmental police, and the Cambridge Fire Department.

Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.
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