Friday, October 23, 2009

FTA OKs Portland streetcar extension funds

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Portland, Ore.’s plans to extend its Portland Streetcar line eastward has been reinforced by approval of federal matching funds, courtesy of the Federal Transit Administration. FTA has cleared $75 million in transit funding for the $128.2 million streetcar extension, which cross the Willamette River and serve the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, among other locations.

Roughly $45 million of the federal package comes from the federal "Small Starts" program directed at smaller-scale urban transit systems; Small Starts itself received a funding boost through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. Another $30 million comes from the Department of Transportation.

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House Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore., pictured at left), a longstanding advocate of light rail and streetcar development and a primary sponsor of federal “Small Starts” legislation, made the announcement along with FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff.

Most of the extension’s funding will come from the Portland Development Commission, state and regional sources, and Portland system development charges. The broad and relatively deep range of non-federal sources allowed city officials to proceed with streetcar planning in recent years even when federal sources and support appeared uncertain at best. The Obama Administration, however, has shown more support for the project.

Six additional streetcars for the system will be provided by United Streetcar LLC, a subsidiary of Clackamas, Ore.-based Oregon Iron Works, Inc. Czech-built Skoda/Inekon cars operate over the current four-mile line.