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Portland - September 2008

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Portland — Streetcar Engineering Funded

Rail Transit Online, September 2008

The Portland city council on Aug. 20 approved spending $6.3 million for project management, final design and engineering on a proposed 3.3-mi. (5.3 km) extension of the streetcar system to the Eastside. In addition, the Portland Development Commission approved $5 million for final engineering.

The $147-million project would start in the Pearl District, run across the Broadway bridge and then turn south to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Final design has been delayed pending approval of a requested $75-million federal grant from the FTA's Small Starts program.

So far, the Bush administration hasn't funded a single streetcar proposal despite language in the six-year SAFETEA-LU transit authorization bill specifically mentioning streetcars. However, more than 10 bus projects have been given millions of dollars.

"The feds just really haven't been supporting (rail) work around the country so there's a pretty significant slowdown," URS Corp. senior streetcar project manager Mark Dorn told the Daily Journal of Commerce. "We're hoping a new administration will pump money into transit."

Earlier this year, the FTA conducted a cost-effectiveness analysis of the Eastside Streetcar Loop and found it didn't meet agency requirements. However, the Oregon congressional delegation successfully sought an exemption and President Bush's proposed 2009 budget includes a
$50-million earmark for the streetcar but only if FTA guidelines are met.

However, the June 30 deadline passed without approval from the FTA. "Streetcar has been just stonewalled by this administration," local Congressman Peter DeFazio told The Oregonian. "It's a great project, and even the current (federal transit) administrator feels it's a meritorious project, but it's been blocked at higher levels in the Bush administration."
Portland officials will now have to await passage of next year's budget by Congress this fall before knowing how much money — if any — they will get. Construction is tentatively slated to begin next June.


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