As Cards Expire, Sen. Murkowski Raises TWIC Access Problems
Wednesday, November 21 2012
It’s been five years since the federal government started requiring Transportation Worker Identification Credentials, or TWIC cards, for dock workers. Now, the first cards issued are starting to expire.
And that’s highlighting some big problems with the TWIC program in Alaska, according to Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
In a November 16 letter to the Department of Homeland Security, Murkowski points out that there are only seven enrollment centers in the entire state. Unalaska’s office, which the city operates out of the public library, is one of them. Murkowski says it’s unreasonable to expect Alaskans to travel to those centers twice to register for an ID.
Unalaska mayor Shirley Marquardt couldn’t agree more. She says the city has been working with Murkowski’s office to improve access to TWIC cards for rural residents.
"It’s something that we’ve been talking about with her staff for several years," Marquardt says. "She and also Senator [Mark] Begich have been very, very interested in getting this, to show just how onerous the cost of the card can be to some areas. And it always brings forward the fact that we ended up providing the service ourselves, and it’s been very difficult to do."
Marquardt says the city’s time as a TWIC provider is almost up. The makeshift signup office in the library will shut down when a government contractor opens the town’s first official TWIC center this spring.
That’s the kind of solution Murkowski wants to see more of. In her letter, she asked Homeland Security to open more offices in the state, and possibly start a mobile TWIC registration unit. At the very least, Murkowski says the government should allow Alaskans to make just one trip to get their cards.
Murkowski did offer one bit of praise in her letter, for the way the government is handling TWIC renewals. Right now, dock workers can order a three-year extension for just $60, instead of the usual $130, by phone. They’ll have to appear in person to pick up their new cards.