Additional security will be in place at the Pittsburgh Marathon to keep more than 27,000 runners and twice as many spectators safe in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, public safety officials and race organizers said Thursday.
But they offered few details at a news conference about the May 5 race – and even fewer when asked how much the extra security will cost or who will pay: the city, race organizers or some other source.
“We’re going to figure it out,” Ravenstahl said.
“The marathon is not going to go bankrupt this year, the marathon is not going to go bankrupt next year,” Ravenstahl said, responding to comments earlier this week by race director Patrice Matamoros.
Shortly after the April 15 bombings near the finish line in Boston, Pittsburgh marathon organizers said precautions developed since a bomb scare during the 2010 race were likely to keep runners safe now, too. Although officials promised to study the matter, Matamoros initially said organizers budgeted about $160,000 to pay for 350 city police officers plus 200 more security staffers.
That changed after meetings with public safety officials – though neither the city nor Matamoros have said how many more officers might be needed – prompting her concerns that mounting security costs could bankrupt Three Rivers Marathon Inc., the nonprofit that puts on the event.
On Thursday, Matamoros followed Ravenstahl to the podium to say, “The show is going on, it’s going to be a great day, it’s going to be a safe day.”
She also briefly described some new safety measures.
The starting line along Liberty Avenue, a major downtown artery, and the finish line will have fenced off “runners only” areas, and all side streets leading to Liberty will be restricted to runners before the race, she said.
Runners will be given clear, plastic bags for their gear, so security officials won’t have to deal with harder-to-search canvas bags.
City public safety director Michael Huss said many details are being kept secret to enhance security.
“We are still having an ever-evolving security plan,” Huss said, adding that safety officials will meet daily to plan until the race weekend, which also includes a pet walk, a children’s marathon and a 5K race on May 4.
The officials said they’re not focusing on what may or may not happen at other U.S. races simply because there are so many of them. Matamoros said there were 65 marathons or similar races scheduled in the country between the Boston and Pittsburgh marathons.
Huss said the city is working with the FBI, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Allegheny County police and sheriff’s offices, and the county’s transit police. But he said public vigilance might be the most important factor.
“The greatest thing we have going for us is the people of Pittsburgh,” Huss said, anticipating people will be vigilant about reporting suspicious people or packages in the wake of the Boston bombings. “That’s a force multiplier for us.”
Spectators are discouraged from bringing backpacks or similar bags, which will be searched.
Most of the 26.2-mile race course will be under video surveillance from existing police cameras, or those owned by businesses or institutions along the route. There will also be bomb-sniffing dogs.
“There will be many things that you will see, and there will be many invisible things that you will not see,” Huss said.
Police Cmdr. Thomas Stangrecki said “pass days” have been canceled for the nearly 900-officer department, though he couldn’t say how many more police will work the race as a result.
“Suffice to say, we’re going to be ramped up. We probably won’t have final numbers until after the marathon,” Stangrecki said.
When that prompted questions about how the city will afford it, Huss hinted that Pittsburgh might apply for assistance, while denying reports that Ravenstahl will declare an emergency to qualify for federal funds.
“We’re going to figure out the funding later,” Huss said. “But I believe a lot of these costs are going to be covered.”