Secretary Mineta's Remarks

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Remarks for
the Honorable Norman Y. Mineta
Secretary of Transportation

FY 2007 New Starts Roll-out
Washington, DC

February 7, 2006
10:30 AM

Good morning, and thank you for joining us.

I am here with Sandy Bushue, Deputy Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, to unveil President Bush’s plan to invest $1.5 billion in new and existing transit projects in the years to come.

These projects were selected to receive funding after passing FTA’s rigorous test. Strong ridership and solid community support were a must before taxpayer dollars could be spent.

Throughout the country, our communities are growing. Opportunities are bringing people to city centers, but the price they pay is hours spent stuck in traffic.

As a nation choked with congestion, we must turn to transit as one way to make it easier and faster to get to work, relieve crowded roads, and keep our economy moving. An investment in transit is an investment in fighting congestion.

In his State of the Union address last week, President Bush said our economy is the envy of the world. In my opinion, it is in part thanks to a transportation network that is second to none. Still, we cannot afford to be complacent about our economy or our transportation network.

That is why the President and I submitted to the Congress yesterday our plan to spend $1.5 billion for up to 28 major transit projects in the coming years. That amount includes more than $300 million for five new Full Funding Grant Agreements. These FFGAs represent a firm commitment by the U.S. Department of Transportation to assist in funding projects in Colorado, Oregon, Texas, and Utah.
In Colorado, we plan to invest $35 million for Denver’s West Corridor Light Rail project for a 12-mile extension along the city’s second busiest traffic corridor. DOT plans to commit another $250 million over the next several years to complete the project.

Oregon has two new projects recommended for funding. Portland’s “MAX” light rail line would be extended by eight miles with our $80 million investment in the city’s transit system, which is in line to receive a total of $334 million over the life of the project. And commuters in Washington County will benefit from our plan to spend $27.6 million on an almost 15-mile commuter line along the fast-growing Wilsonville – Beaverton Corridor.

We plan to invest $80 million this year in a 21-mile extension to the Dallas Light Rail system to fight congestion in and out of the city’s central business district.

And in Utah’s Weber County, $80 million is slated for a 43-mile commuter rail line to provide surrounding communities with direct access to downtown Salt Lake City. Federal investment in the project will total $490 million.

We also included New Starts funding to keep current projects moving forward, such as light rail system in Phoenix for which we pledged $90 million in fiscal year 2007. That project will provide access to major employment centers in Phoenix and Tempe. And it will help deliver people to popular entertainment and cultural venues in the metropolitan area.

In Los Angeles, $100 million will go to build a light rail extension connecting downtown L.A. with the East side. The Metro Gold extension is expected to carry 23,000 riders a day by 2020.

And in Charlotte, thousands of passengers are expected to hop aboard the area’s first light rail line. It will extend from the city’s central business district to the South Carolina border.

Additionally this year, five projects could be eligible for up to $102 million. These projects are based in northern Virginia, Norfolk, New York City, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

And, $100 million is set aside for the new “Small Starts” program that levels the playing field by allowing smaller, less costly projects to compete against like-sized projects through their own streamlined program.

In total, 16 states and Puerto Rico successfully passed FTA’s stringent standards for funding. Congratulations to these communities.

When all of these projects are completed, they will carry over 346 million riders a year, and save more than 129 million hours in travel time. That means more time and more freedom for people to do the things they want to do. That is what makes our transportation system the best in the world, and that is how we will help hold the line on the problem of urban traffic congestion.

Now, for more detailed information about our recommendations for fiscal 2007, I would like to turn the podium over to Deputy Administrator Sandy Bushue. Sandy…