Merkley walks across new Tilikum Crossing, touts bridge as example of needed investments

Washington DC – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley walked across the new Tilikum Crossing Monday with TriMet officials and workers who helped build the bridge to celebrate the completion of this phase of the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project. Merkley heralded the project, which came in on time and under budget, as an example of the investments America should be making in the next generation of infrastructure. 

Not only did this project create a distinctive bridge which will exclusively carry light rail trains, buses, cyclists, pedestrians and streetcars, but the project came in on time and under budget.  Moreover, Senator Merkley helped secure an additional $3.6 million to be used for the project.

“This distinctive bridge and this light rail line give Portland a new landmark, but more importantly they both put people to work now and lay the groundwork for the metro area’s future economic growth,” Senator Merkley said. “I wish more of my colleagues in Washington would realize that we can’t keep shortchanging infrastructure and delude ourselves into thinking we’ll still have a world-class economy.  Here in Oregon, we’re doing it right – creating jobs, investing in our future, and doing it on time and under budget.”

Last summer, after learning that the entire 7.3-mile light rail project would come in roughly $10 to $40 million under budget and that the federal government intended to recoup those savings, Senator Merkley contacted the U.S. Department of Transportation in hopes that the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) would allow for part of the savings to be used for further improvements to the project. The Senator believed these improvements would encourage higher ridership by providing better connectivity to passenger cars and buses, more capacity and more reliability.

In response to Senator Merkley’s efforts, the FTA allowed TriMet to keep an additional $3.565 million. Of the $3.565 million granted by the FTA, $2.56 million will fund additional station shelters, $300,000 will go towards rail switch heaters and $705,000 will go towards overhead contact system ice caps. These additions to the project will make traveling in cold weather conditions easier and more comfortable for TriMet workers and commuters and reduce system delays.  

“We are so excited for these expansions to the project,” said TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane. “These extra funds will provide some important improvements to our system that will make for a better riding experience. And during winter storms, our system will provide more reliable service thanks to the efforts of Senator Merkley.”