PASADENA (CNS) – A pair of elected officials have hailed Congress’ decision to earmark $5 million toward an earthquake early warning system on the West Coast, with one calling it a “down payment” on a system that can save lives.

The funding is included in a $1.1 trillion federal spending package, and it marks the first time Congress has provided funds specifically for such a system.

“This $5 million federal investment is a down payment on building an integrated statewide system,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. “These federal dollars are sorely needed, but more funding is still necessary to complete the system. While the state and private sector must contribute their fair share, I will continue to work with West Coast senators and representatives to prioritize fedeal funds for this life-saving project. We must get it done before the next major earthquake strikes.”

A limited warning system, developed by Caltech, UC Berkeley and the University of Washington, has already been put in place, sometimes giving several seconds of warning when quakes strike.

Expanding the system and maintaining it across the state and in Oregon and Washington is expected to cost millions more, but Rep. Adam Schiff, D- Burbank, said the initial funding from Congress is a positive first step.

“This funding will help build out additional stations, speed up the ShakeAlert system and make it more reliable in our highest priority areas, including Los Angeles and the Bay Area, and those critical few seconds or a minute of warning will allow people to see cover, automatically slow or stop trains and pause surgeries,” Schiff said.

“This first phase of funding will allow the work to begin expanding the system and we will continue to work to secure future funding along with our other federal, state and local partners,” he said.