Washington, DC – Department
of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today that $75 million
in federal funding is heading to Portland to help fund the expansion
of the streetcar to the Eastside. Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley, who
joined LaHood on a conference call with other members of the Oregon
delegation, applauded the announcement.
“This is a tremendous victory for Oregon, for our efforts to create
new jobs and for the environment. So many people have fought for years
to make today’s announcement a possibility and it’s going to make
a real difference not just in giving Oregonians transportation options,
but in creating good Oregon jobs. I applaud the work so many members
of the Oregon congressional delegation have done over the years on this
Portland had previously been awarded $45 million for the Eastside expansion
but that funding had been held up by the Bush Administration. Today,
LaHood released those funds while adding $30 million in additional federal
aid through the Small Starts program. Under the previous Administration,
the streetcar project had been deemed ineligible for Small Starts funding
despite its proven ability to increase transportation options and encourage
economic development. In a hearing of the Banking, Housing and Urban
Development Committee in March, Merkley had asked LaHood to re-evaluate
this decision and allow the streetcar to compete for Small Start funds.
Together, the $75 million represents enough to fund almost the entire
Eastside expansion of the streetcar.
“When I spoke to Secretary LaHood earlier this year, I was very impressed
by his focus on making our cities more livable and encouraging innovations
in public transit. He pledged to look into the issues with the streetcar.
Today, he came through for Portland and for Oregon in spectacular fashion,”
Merkley noted that Oregon Iron Works, which produces the cars, will
also benefit from the expansion, as will several other Oregon companies
that produce component parts, resulting in job creation through these
homegrown companies as well as new construction jobs building the rail
As Speaker of the Oregon House, Merkley worked with his colleagues
to include $20 million for vehicles for the Streetcar Loop in the 2007
session. The streetcar is an exceptional project that unites the state, local
and federal government, and the public and private sectors to improve
our community and create living wage jobs,” said Merkley. “I invited
Secretary LaHood to Oregon earlier this year and I hope he’ll be able
to join us soon to take a ride on the streetcar and celebrate its expansion.