Merkley: $75 Million for Streetcar is Victory for Oregon, Workers and the Environment

Merkley: $75 Million for Streetcar is Victory for Oregon, Workers and the Environment

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 important issue."

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," said Merkley.

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 lines.

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.