Despite assurances from law enforcement officials that New York City’s bridges, tunnels, and airports are much safer than before Sept. 11, 2001, counterterrorism experts said transit hubs remain prime targets for attack precisely because they are impossible to secure. “You cannot have police at every stop, every entrance of a subway or train line,” said Joseph King of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “It’s physically impossible.” An attack on a large transit hub like Penn Station has the potential of causing thousands of casualties. Detours can be established to circumvent damaged roadways, buildings or monuments, but once a subway, bridge, or tunnel has been destroyed, it cannot be used.
“When you knock out a fundamental arterial, you don’t have an immediate substitute,” said regional planning expert Lee Koppelman. “It’s a huge disruption to the economy.” Samuel Plumeri, director of public safety for the Port Authority, said the agency has devoted $2.3 billion to securing its bridges, tunnels, and airports. In the tunnels alone, police use technology to detect explosives and radiation and conduct random vehicle checks. “Let me be clear. We provide this level of safety day in and day out,” Plumeri said.