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Electeds gather in Portland to push for federal transportation bill

Posted by on September 9th, 2010 at 8:17 am

Congressman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) speaks at a press conference near the Broadway Bridge yesterday. Standing behind him are fellow House Representatives Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader and David Wu.
(Photos © J. Maus)

With dozens of workers from the Eastside Streetcar Loop project looking on, three members of Oregon’s congressional delegation — Representatives Kurt Schrader, David Wu, and Peter DeFazio — joined Portland Mayor Sam Adams, Congressman Jim Oberstar and union leader Ray Sesma for a press conference on the east side of the Broadway Bridge yesterday.

“This inter-modal setting we have here is the template for America… There is a transit revolution happening in America, we’re adding a million new transit rides every day. We have to keep that momentum up.”
— Rep. Jim Oberstar

The goal of the event was to build on momentum from a transportation infrastructure funding proposal that President Obama announced on Labor Day and to urge Congress to pass a reauthorization of the Surface Transportation Authorization Bill.

“It’s about jobs!” was the message emblazoned on the podium, on the back of seats, and on a bus parked near the event. Job creation was also a big part of all the speeches.

Mayor Adams mentioned the thousands of jobs created by the streetcar project and he also pointed out that it includes new bike lanes for the 4,000 people who cross the bridge by bike every day. In a statement released after the event, Adams said he’s calling on Congress to pass a reauthorization of the transportation bill and he plans to travel to D.C. later this month to push for Portland projects he’d like funding for.

Transpo bill press conference-3
Mayor Adams

Adams also shared a list of seven “priority projects” totaling about $231 million dollars. The list includes $25 million for over 100 miles of bike boulevards, $163 million for the Portland to Lake Oswego Streetcar project, and $10 million to improve SW Capitol Highway between SW Multnomah Boulevard and SW Taylors Ferry Road (read the full list here).

All four congressmen in attendance spoke about how spending on infrastructure would create new jobs while also modernizing our transportation network. Peter DeFazio commented that the Broadway Bridge is a great example of the type of multi-modal infrastructure America needs more of. “Streetcar, light rail, auto, truck, and bicycle and pedestrian — this is the future of transportation in America and we just need to move forward.” Kurt Schrader said he was happy President Obama was “finally listening” to he and DeFazio’s advice on this issue and called the $50 billion a “great down payment to get America back on track.”

David Wu, whose district stretches from metro Portland all the way to the Oregon coast, said a new bill would mean, “Jobs for Oregonians, innovation, and movement toward more livable communities.”

Representative Jim Oberstar (D-MN), who will play a major role in the new surface transportation bill as Chair of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, spoke in his typically fiery tone. Oberstar said he and his colleagues are “ready to bring that bill to the floor” but all that’s missing is a funding mechanism. “The highway trust fund has given America the greatest mobility of any nation on Earth, but we can’t keep up if we don’t invest in our infrastructure.” Oberstar also applauded Portland, saying, “This inter-modal setting we have here is the template for America. That is where we’re headed. There is a transit revolution happening in America, we’re adding a million new transit rides every day. We have to keep that momentum up.”

While the transportation bill is making headlines now, Oberstar acknowledged that, because of “election jitters” and obstructionist politics from Senate republicans he doesn’t expect to bring any legislative proposals to the floor until after the mid-terms.

When asked for details on Obama’s recent proposal, Oberstar said there weren’t many to talk about yet. “The important thing is,” he said, “they’ve signaled a willingness to engage in the future of transportation that the previous administration did not.”

What this press conference confirmed is that the national discussion about transportation will be heavily focused on job creation. Active transportation advocates need to keep that in mind.

— View more photos from the press conference in our gallery.

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Comments
  • Velophile in Exile September 9, 2010 at 8:51 am

    I guess the idea is that the temporary construction jobs carry us through until the private sector starts hiring again.

    Can’t hurt I suppose, and it’s definitely better than obstructionism and supply-side economics.

    But, for me, funding transportation infrastructure isn’t about the jobs. It’s about energy independence, global warming, and liveable communities.

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  • f5 September 9, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Isn’t this the second transportation stimulus since the new administration? What was the effect of the first stimulus on transportation jobs…anyone know?

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  • Howard Q. Bikeman September 9, 2010 at 10:13 am

    I can’t figure out what this bill is about…

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 9, 2010 at 10:19 am

      Howard,

      The transportation bill is supposed to be reauthorized every six years. It lays out the national law and plans for how and where and how much states spend on transportation infrastructure and programs. Congress has delayed the current one because they’ve been focused on wars, the economy, health care, and fighting with each other. The press conference I reported about comes after Pres. Obama announced that he’s finally going to make transportation spending a priority and that he’ll put in $50 billion as a jumpstart to get it going. Hope that makes it more clear.

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  • matt picio September 9, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Also, the transportation bill has already “expired” – the fund went basically bankrupt over a year ago, and has been propped up by hasty legislation in the interim. Both parties recognize this is not an ideal situation, and the ideological battle lines are being drawn now for the next authoritative version of the bill. Since it will represent an enormous amount of money, it’s likely that the discussion and authorization of the bill will be as contentious as health care, and we can expect the Republican party to use Active Transportation as a focus point. The rhetoric will revolve around the “wastefulness” of “bike lanes that no one uses”, and we can expect that both parties will attempt to maintain as many car-specific improvements as possible in the name of reducing congestion – Reps will argue it helps business, Dems will argue the health aspect.

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  • jim September 9, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Where is the bike lane going to be on mlk? I have seen bikes riding in the middle of the tracks, is that where it is going to be??

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  • jim September 9, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Dems are hard on the campaign trail. they know they are in deep trouble.

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  • Joe Rowe September 9, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Jonathan and everyone. Wake up! That’s a 233 million dollar wish list that I would not call Active Transportation.

    It’s more like active gentrification with 70% of that money driving rich white folks to Lake Oswego in comfort.

    Throw in 10% for bikes on any project, of any pricetag or long term cost to heath, and the bike community acts like a lapdog. The problem with the Mt. Hood freeway was they forgot to add bike lanes, street car and print posters about the 20,000 union jobs we lost.

    The number 4 bus is packed most of the day from downtown to North Portland. As of this week there are fewer buses and higher fares. Where’s the outrage?

    http://www.portlandmercury.com/portland/nickel-and-dimed/Content?oid=2837836

    Stop drinking the freaking kool-aid in your water bottles folks!! This election cycle everyone is acting like they are doing more for jobs.

    I say bring back the pyramids! Vote for Joe, vote for Jobs!

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  • Opus the Poet September 9, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Everybody is in deep trouble. Even in very bright Red TX Repugnican incumbents are quaking in their boots because nothing is getting done in DC, and locally people know who to blame. That would be the party of No that has been gleefully obstructing nearly everything coming from the White House, even when it was one of their (GOP) ideas to begin with. I mean look at who the GOP is running in CO for Governor, Mr. “Bicycles are the UN’s nose under the tent” Dan Maes. In a rational world he never would have gotten a single vote in the primary, but he won it. Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot.

    And we need to completely re-tool our infrastructure while we have the chance (and the money) so that people have a choice to use something other than a private automobile to get places and do things.

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  • bikieboy September 9, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    The priority project list is interesting. The $24 mil for Union Station is intriguing – Anyone know what this is for, specifically? I mean, the station looks OK to me… i can only think it has very major structural problems.

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  • Anthony September 12, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    With David Wu and Peter Dafazio in the picture it is about spending money! More feel good B.S. right before election time? And I bet after the election it will be back to the involuntary bending over of the citizens as usual.

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