Tag Archives | funding

Future prospects for BRT in Portland

This past evening in the Twitterverse, I had a discussion with several fine folks, including Michael Andersen, intersection 911, and our very own Al M, on the future prospects for major capital improvements in the bus system, up to and including BRT. (Planned purchases of replacement busses, tardy as they are, are excluded).

An oft-held viewpoint, also echoed frequently by readers here, was that it was unlikely to happen.
There has been quite a bit of discussion of BRT in Portland over the years. The original MAX line was originally conceived as a busway; a BRT solution for the South Corridor project (Portland-Milwaukie) was given serious consideration, and its being discussed for the Powell/Division and Tualatin-Clackamas corridors. Clark County/C-TRAN is also considering BRT. Last year, we discussed the prospect of BRT running parallel to WES; something which TriMet has not, to my knowledge, considered.

But talk, as they say, is cheap. The last five rapid transit projects constructed here in town have been rail, as is the Portland-Milwaukie line under construction. The next major rapid transit line in the queue, the Southwest Corridor, is widely expected to be rail as well (no decision has been made, and its still early in the planning process, but I would be shocked otherwise). And that’s just MAX–there’s also WES and the Streetcar as well. Past behavior is an indicator of future behavior.

Intersection 911 made an insightful comment:

@I-911: seems BRT is always “considered” before rail is chosen. I smell forgone conclusion + too much emphasis on choice riders

While I’ll leave alone the “foregone conclusion” part, the “choice riders” part is dead on. FTA criteria for evaluating transit projects have, until recently, placed much emphasis on attracting “new riders“, and on cutting down on travel times. New riders are invariably choice riders (the dependent riders are already using transit), and there’s quite bit of them who won’t ride busses, and the travel time requirement encourages high-capital projects. The Obama Administration has altered the criteria, but many think the new policy will instead promote streetcars. (In a must-read article, Jarrett Walker channels Socrates for an excellent discussion of the FTA criteria.)

However–blaming the FTA isn’t the whole story. While the FTA isn’t immune from politics, programs such as New Starts are designed to permit funding decisions to be made on technical rather than political grounds, and it works reasonably well. And more to the point–the FTA has funded quite a few BRT projects over the years, including two EmX projects in Eugene. (A third is in the works). Over a dozen BRT projects are presently in the pipeline, meaning construction has started, or is scheduled to start in 2012.

FTA programs such as New Starts don’t pay for programs all by themselves, however–Uncle Sam instead provides a 50%-60% match on projects. (Larger projects like MLR get 50%, smaller ones can get 60%). Which means locals have to come up with the other 40%-50% of a project’s cost. Transit agencies, such as TriMet, generally don’t have that sort of money on hand–and indeed, TriMet has gotten raked over the coals for its contribution of less than 5% of the MLR capital costs, as this is money that could go to pay for better bus service.

Matching funds, instead, are often appropriated by state and local governments. Salem is paying for a significant chunk of the project, and local governments in the region are kicking in the majority of the rest. And unlike the FTA, many of the local governments lack effective bureaucracy to reduce the politics inherent in funding decisions. I have no doubt that the FTA would be willing to fund a suitable BRT project, and although it may seem like a leap of faith, I’m certain TriMet would have no issue building and operating one. My suspicion is that the biggest roadblock to this are the local governments providing the match–cities and counties are prone to seek prestige projects (since Hillsboro, Beaverton, Gresham, and now Milwaukie have LRT, don’t expect Tigard to “settle” for BRT), and are subject to greater influence from local development and construction interests.

That said, I’ve long pondered the debate between federalism and localism of infrastructure funding. Sending the bulk of our tax dollars to DC only to go begging for it to be returned is rather inefficient. My biggest beef with the Feds, though is not what the FTA does, but with the broader transportation funding priorities–Washington still likes to build freeways more than anything else. However, the same is arguably true for Salem.

A Powell/Division BRT corridor actually strikes me as a politically tractable project. It would be built in cities that already have MAX, and lies in a corridor where rail would be expensive (and there’s a parallel MAX line to the north). The existing bus corridor is well-used. The major question is–can the stars be aligned to pay for it?

Playing Devil’s Advocate: What if we wait?

A discussion on the timing of big-ticket capital projects.

As most of you are aware, I’m a supporter of several (although certainly not all) of the upcoming big-ticket transit projects, including one which has drawn immense criticism because of it’s price tag and concerns about how it is being funded–namely the Milwaukie MAX project. I share concerns about things such as bonding future payroll tax revenues and use of urban renewal funds–and given that these things together are less than 10% of the overall project budget, I find it highly unfortunate that more “honest” sources of revenue haven’t been found to pay for the project.

However, I consider the project an important long-term investment. In the short term, the line will offer significant but not earth-shattering performance and reliability gains over 33/McLouglin, which the line will replace north of Milwaukie. (Average trip time will decrease, but not significantly; reliability will improve due to running in an exclusive right-of-way). Capacity will instantly quadruple, assuming trains run at the same headways as the #33 in the corridor, and MAX will certainly attract some riders that won’t ride the bus. (To what extent such passengers should be accommodated is a frequent topic of discussion). Passengers on the 33 south of Milwaukie will be inconvenienced by a transfer; unlike the proposed project across the river, it will be a transfer to a faster service.

But the key long-term issue that justifies the expense, in my opinion, is the likely possibility that we could soon see a day where gasoline becomes far more expensive than it is. There are also the environmental issues to consider. If and when that day comes–and it may come before the line’s scheduled 2015 opening–we may find that we desperately need a high-capacity, high-performance, non-fossil-fuel powered transit line serving SE Portland and northern Clackamas County. And a few other places as well.

But there’s that word: if. What if “if” never occurs? Might it be better to wait until we Really Truly Need the project, than build it “on spec” today?

Why, indeed?

Obviously, I’m playing devil’s advocate with this question. I believe we need it today; that “if” in this case is as close to a sure bet as we are going to get, and that the cost of waiting outweigh the benefits. In addition, the bulk of the funding for the project is conditioned on the project keeping to schedule; were it to be indefinitely postponed, either of the lottery funds from Salem or the federal matching funds from Uncle Sam might vanish. They could be re-appropriated in the future, but given all the politicking needed to plan a project of this magnitude, it could be a very long time before the project is able to re-start. (And if conditions do change in such a way that public demand for transit is greater, there will be much more competition for funds).

Obviously, this is a hypothetical discussion in the context of Milwaukie MAX. The Final EIS has been written, a Decision of Record will soon be registered with the FTA, and construction is scheduled to begin this year. Preliminary work on the new bridge has commenced as you read this. Some of the funding sources may be jeopardized by forthcoming initiatives and politicking, but the proportion of funding which is presently at-risk is very small–a referendum by Clackamas County voters to withdraw the county’s share of funding is unlikely to scuttle the project.

But since we are engaging in a hypothetical, let as assume, for the purposes of this discussion, that the project could be delayed and restarted without consequence, and that doing so might be advantageous. Obviously, there are some out there who consider this project a bad idea at any time, and would vote for “never” as a start date. While I and the other editors here disagree with that opinion, it isn’t an illegitimate one–go ahead and chime in. But my assumption in the discussion is that the project is worthwhile, and ought to be built sooner or later–and which one (sooner vs later) is the subject of debate.

If you prefer, of course, feel free to replace references to “Milwaukie MAX” with references to projects further in the future, where the wheels aren’t already set in motion–many of the arguments considered are not exclusive to MLR.

Macroeconomics 101

One line of argument, with arguments both pro and con, is the effect of the current recession and level of public debt. Many conservatives argue that during a recession (which arguably we’re still in–even if Wall Street is doing fine, we’ve got 10% unemployment still, which is a Big Problem) we need to tighten our belts, and delay discretionary investments in response to a decline in tax revenues. Others argue that we need to increase spending in a recession, to help bring the economy out of it–and point that many (although not all) so-called “deficit hawks” are far less eager to raise taxes (which would penalize the rich) than cut spending (which tends to inflict more pain upon the poor). A response to the Keynesian school of thought is to point out the current humongous budget deficit, and note that whatever the merits of countercyclical spending otherwise, it is inappropriate with the current level of debt. Many liberal economists would respond that the US is a sovereign currency issuer, unlike countries such as Greece or Ireland (whose debt is denominated in a currency they cannot control the supply of), and that inflation is near zero; thus increasing the money supply (aka “printing money”, which the Fed did a bit of last November) is a reasonable option. OTOH, when the Fed did engage in a bit of “quantitative easing” last fall, the bond market was less than happy–creditors to the US don’t like it much if we devalue our debts via inflation, and inflation would be highly detrimental to Americans living on a fixed income–in particular pensioners, whose pensions would be effectively reduced by inflation of the dollar. OTTH, a good argument can be made that sovereign governments ought to be in charge of the financial sector, rather than the other way around.

That’s enough macroeconomics for this post; the high-level debate over the correct fiscal and monetary response(s) to our current situation are covered by writers far more knowledgeable on economics than yours truly. However, I will note that if countercyclical spending is to occur, the money has to come from Washington. Neither John Kitzhaber, Sam Adams, or Neil McFarlane have the authority to engage in deficit-spending other than via limited means such as obligation bonds–local governments cannot print money, and are rather constrained in the sorts of debt they can issue. Right now, the mood in Washington seems to be against such actions–the “stimulus package” of 2009 was politically unpopular–so the money flow is slowing. OTOH, the Milwaukie MAX funding has already been approved, and the project has a very good FTA cost-effectiveness rating, and thus has a good chance of surviving the sharp pencils.

Other factors

Various other factors which could influence the decision include:

  • When will peak oil occur? As noted above, a major justification for the project is the price of gasoline and other fossil fuels. Petroleum is not produced in Oregon; it’s something we have to import. Whether it comes from Alaska or Texas or Venezuela or Saudi Arabia, it nonetheless gets here on a freighter or in a pipeline. As a result, nearly every dollar spent on gasoline is a dollar sent out of the region; the local value-add is pretty small. The price of gas, essentially, is a tax on our economy, and that excludes the taxes that we ourself levy on fuel. It’s a tax which confers no benefit on the region–and in many cases it’s money that winds up in the hand of various unsavory characters. And it’s a particularly regressive tax; millionaires pay the same amount for gas as do minimum wage workers. (OK, rich guys may buy premium for their fancier cars, true…). Every dollar increase in the price of gas represents hundreds of millions of dollars removed from the local economy; a $2 increase in fuel prices would represent an increased “tax” on the region which is comparable in size to TriMet’s annual operating budget, but without paying for a single bus or train. This suggests that should gas start to get expensive again, increased transit capability cannot come too soon.
  • The ability to redeploy highways: The previous item suggests a reason why waiting is bad; here’s one that might weigh in on the side of delay. A major expense of the Milwaukie MAX line (and capital projects in general) is the cost of right-of-way. To be useful, the lines have to be built through existing urban fabric–and generally, there’s already something there along the route. A big chunk of money is going to UPRR (buy me a beer and I’ll tell you what “UP” really stands for) for the ROW between the freight lines and McLoughlin, and another big chunk is going to demolish perfectly good buildings in the SE industrial area. TriMet has long saved money by running in downtown streets, but tearing out a few lanes of McLoughlin (or Barbur or I-5) to make room for tracks (or a busway) is presently out of the question. In a post-Peak Oil world, we may find that the political climate has changed, however, and that converting highways to rail lines is suddenly a practical thing to do, given that nobody wants to drive at $5/gallon. This would be poetic justice, after all, many of our urban highways occupy former railway grades. More than a few transit advocates call for such conversions today–but today, removing highway capacity just ain’t happening. Tomorrow, it might.
  • Construction costs: Another issue to consider is this: Building rail in the US, at the present time, is expensive, far more so than in comparable countries elsewhere in the world, with similar levels of labor cost and environmental regulation. Lots of different reasons why have been suggested (large number of stakeholders each imposing their own requirements, a convoluted approval process with lots of red tape, above-market labor rates, rail being a “specialty” discipline in the construction trades and thus bids subject to far less competitive pressure than projects involving pouring concrete). If a project were delayed, or delay could be credibly threatened, then maybe costs might go down. OTOH, costs could go up as well, especially if a construction boom occurs in the future.
  • Changes in technology: One other issue sometime suggested is that future technological improvements may make our planned choices obsolete (whether rail, busway, or freeway) in the near future. GM and Nissan both now manufacture vehicles capable of full-time electric drive; Toyota and Honda have had hybrids on the market for several years. Some rather exotic technologies (driverless autos, “personal rapid transit”, etc.) are presently the subject of research, although many of these are decades out and would require far more substantial changes in infrastructure to deploy.
  • The population forecast and the long-term economic outlook. One other important point to make is that many infrastructure projects which add capacity, whether road or rail, are based on predictions of future demand as much as on current demand. Current demand is often constrained by existing capacity, and induced demand is a long-demonstrated phenomenon–but projections on future demand are based on long-term projections of population growth, a science which is inexact, to say the least. Population trends are inherently tied in with economic trends (and vice versa) as well as demographics; a region with a robust economy will attract immigrants, and a region with a declining economy will often have people moving away. (Population and the economy are important for financial reasons as well). It is tempting to suggest that “wait and see” is a prudent approach, particularly given the current recession–the concern that “this is the new normal” and there won’t be a substantial recovery for a long time, is a reasonable one. On the other hand, concerns about long term trends represent a level of uncertainty that will always be present, no matter how long one waits–for a project expected to last for decades, there’s often no advantage in delaying for a few years.
  • Organizational issues: Finally, there’s the laundry list of issues specific to TriMet and other agencies involved–concerns about their finances (in particular, agreements with workers past and present) and their organizational competence. Some feel that TriMet has to get its finances in better order prior to spending any money on a project of this magnitude. Others may think that projects of this nature are part of the solution and not the problem–the bulk of funds available for construction are not available for pensions and other expense items, and that longer term, capital projects will help with the operating bottom line.

Thoughts? Any others? As noted above, this post is meant to stimulate a bit more discussion on the merits of big-ticket capital projects, and their timing. If you think that waiting is a reasonable course of action (whether in the context of MLR, another project in the pipe, or in general), feel free to say so–but please include in your missive what conditions ought to be satisfied for the project to proceed. If you think that full speed ahead is the correct course of action, please add your two cents about why delay is unwise and/or arguments for delay are unimportant. (And if you hate the project altogether, go ahead and say that too–though keep in mind that an underlying assumption of this discussion is that the project is ultimately worthwhile).

Happy Chinese New Year!

Rethinking transit: Funding and equity

A discussion of funding and equity in transit.

After a whole lot of conversation on the particulars of TriMet and the agency’s present situation, time to take a few steps back, and give some thought to how things might be different. We’ll start with two issues which are frequently conflated (and some say, rightly so)–funding and equity. By “funding”, for purposes of this post, I speak mainly of operational subsidies coming from general taxes–capital projects are a different ball of wax. I do assume that some subsidy is required–there are few first-world cities out there who have complete transit systems which are operationally profitable. I also assume that this is OK–transit is a public good, and on that basis ought to be entitled to some level of public subsidy. I know that some readers object to this, but that debate is not the topic of this thread.

Equity, in this context, refers to the levels of service provided to different parts of the metro area. Chris has been spending a great deal of time mapping service levels, and analyzing the results; here we consider the question of what should be, rather than what is.

There’s a reason these two topics are lumped together in this thread. One common “formula” for equity is that transit service ought to, in some fashion, be proportional to taxes paid. This is a common refrain heard often from taxpayers in suburban areas with high payrolls and minimal transit service; recently we received news that some business leaders in Boring want to withdraw from TriMet. We’ll get to that debate in a moment.

What sort of taxes?

If one makes the assumption that transit is to be partially funded by general taxation (an assumption that is being made for purposes of this discussion)–the first question becomes: What sort of taxes? Ad valorem property taxes? Income taxes? Payroll taxes? Sales tax? Other forms of consumption tax? Fees on unrelated activity (i.e. development charges)?

TriMet, of course, uses the payroll tax as its primary funding source–according to PortlandAfoot, the payroll tax provides around 55% of TriMet’s operating revenue. Payroll taxes have some advantages–they’re easy to collect (businesses who pay them have to process payroll taxes for other purposes such as Social Security and Medicare; and employees need not do a thing); they have less effect on minimum-wage employees (as the taxes collected don’t count towards the wage paid); and they are relatively stable. On the down side, they are less stable than property taxes.

Other common forms of taxation would be difficult to apply in Oregon.

  • Levying a local income tax would be a big headache for taxpayers, who would have to prepare (potentially) a third set of tax returns in addition to the state and federal forms they have to fill out now. (Four years ago, the City of Portland considered a city income tax to help fund schools–an idea which was quickly rejected).
  • Property taxes have the advantage of stability, and many transit authorities use these for funding. A major limitation on use of property taxes in Oregon is 1990’s Ballot Measure 5, which limits property taxes to 1.5% of value (0.5% for schools, 1.0% for other services), excluding bonded indebtedness. This is a total limit; not a per-agency limit.
  • Use of sales taxes to fund transit is also common. Sales taxes have a tendency to be regressive, unstable, are far less deductible from federal income tax. And Oregon’s anti-sales-tax tradition almost assures that TriMet will not be collecting revenue from the region’s cash registers any time soon.

The payroll tax has one other interesting attribute–which is both a strength and a weakness. It relates directly to employment–being paid by employers on payrolls–and many consider that equitable because a primary class of transit users are commuters paying to get to and from work; thus employers are “paying” to have transit provided to their employees. On the other hand, employers are not similarly charged for roads and highways (which are funded via other means). And, as the Boring situation shows (as does the withdrawal of Wilsonville from TriMet two decades ago), this gives employers–especially those located in areas with high concentrations of jobs a lot of leverage. In both cases, high-employment communities are asserting an unfair allocation of service hours–claiming that because their community provides a high proportion of payroll tax revenue (relative to population), it is entitled to a higher “share” of transit service.

The funding mechanisms for roads, on the other hand, aren’t employer based–payroll taxes do not fund road construction. Instead, the funding mechanisms for these come primarily from general fund sources (city/county property taxes), fees (construction assessments, license/registration fees), and fuel taxes–a kindasorta user fee; none of which has anything to do with where one works. Other than providing free parking at the job, employers generally don’t subsidize employees who drive to work. While roads are subsidized (how much is an interesting debate), the sources of the subsidy are generally unrelated to the workplace.
How to assign service hours, anyway?

That brings us to the whole concept of equity: TriMet has a limited budget, and thus a limited number of service hours. Let’s take a look at the map which Chris worked so hard to create:


View Larger Map

The first thing you notice is: Most of it’s blue or cyan, and the cooler colors on the map mean “lousy transit”. The only red or orange (“excellent transit”) is downtown and along the Banfield corridor. Green (“decent transit”) is found in much of the City of Portland, in East County, along the Westside MAX line, and to a lesser extent along the Barbur and McLoughlin corridors to the south. But much of the area in the Portland metro area is ill-served by transit.

For many, though, that’s the way it ought to be. Providing decent bus service to low-density sprawl is difficult and expensive, and such places are designed around the automobile–the vast majority of transit users in these places are those who cannot drive. Providing good service to high density areas is easy–there’s lots of potential passengers, and owning an auto in these places is often more expensive or inconvenient, so a higher percentage of residents are likely to take transit. If one views the payroll tax as being paid by employees instead of by employers (an argument could be made that if the payroll tax didn’t exist, wages would rise somewhat), this is equitable from a funding point of view as well–high density areas contribute more dollars, and thus “deserve” more service hours allotted to them.

Some urbanists go further, and propose that dense areas receive levels of service that scale greater than linearily with population density.

However, the payroll tax isn’t paid by the workers, it’s paid by the boss–and levied at the place of employment. People who live outside of the TriMet service district, but work inside it, have payroll tax paid on their behalf; people who do the opposite (live in town but work elsewhere, i.e. in Washington) do not. Thus, attempts by areas with a large concentration of industry to withdraw from the service district are a credible threat.

And, there are quite a few TriMet lines with extremely low ridership–whose only purpose, it seems, is to maintain a minimal level of service to a given geographical area in order to justify collecting taxes from that area. One of those lines, the 84, is the subject of the next section.

The Boring situation

At the present time, the idea of Boring withdrawing from TriMet is still an idea–but it might have some legs. The city of Damascus to the west has long been outside the TriMet boundary (despite being surrounded by it). Some of the complaints lodged by the Boring business owners are entirely legitimate–the service to Boring is very limited, and is designed for Boring residents to get to jobs in the urban parts of the Metro area, not the reverse. (One line, the 84, provides weekday-only service to the are, and only three runs per day). It’s nearly impossible, given current scheduling, for a Gresham resident to take the bus to a job in Bornig. And given Boring’s extremely low density–it’s a small town surrounded by rural lands; more of an exurb of Portland than part of the continuous metropolitan area, providing good service would be difficult.

From a point of view of number of users, Boring isn’t entitled to very much service at all; but from a point of view of who pays the bills, Boring has a decent gripe. The annual payroll tax contribution from the community is $2 million; but operating the 84 only costs a fraction of that. Were Boring to withdraw, it would likely mean service cuts elsewhere in the metro area. (An unanswered question, though one which may be mooted by the current service patterns as indicated above: How many employees who work in Boring live there, vs. how many travel there from other parts of the metro area, vs. how many live outside the current TriMet service boundaries?)

Several other exurbs, more distant from Portland than Boring is–have withdrawn from the district over the years. Canby, Sandy, and Molalla all now operate their own transit agencies, which focus on their respective communities. Given Boring’s present exurban nature, I’m not entirely unsympathetic to their situation. Were Boring to withdraw from TriMet and form their own transit district (perhaps providing service to Damascus as well), that might produce a net benefit for transit users in the region, even if it produces a small negative for TriMet. (If such a district could reach a transfer agreement with TriMet, so interchanging between the systems doesn’t cost riders extra money, so much the better).

On the other hand, it might well be the case that the business owners in question simply want to take the money and run–we’ll see.

What about Wilsonville?

A more controversial departure from TriMet occurred in the city of Wilsonville in 1988, when the city elected to withdraw from the TriMet service district, and form its own city-run transit authority, nowadays called SMART, or South Metro Area Rapid Transit. SMART operates six bus lines (providing six-day service; no busses run on Sunday)–three of which provide half-hourly service within the city, and three of which provide connecting service to neighboring transit agencies (TriMet, Canby Area Transit, and Cherriots in Salem). Like the current situation with Boring, Wilsonville businesses complained that payroll tax dollars collected in the city of Wilsonville were being unfairly diverted to subsidize transit service in Portland–and indeed, TriMet did not, at the time, provide significant levels of service to the city. (At the time, Wilsonville had not experienced a major residential boom, and had the unusual distinction of more jobs than residents within City limits). So the city withdrew and started WART, later renamed to SMART. Intra-city service is free (the lines to Tigard, Canby, and Salem are not)–and the city’s employers got a tax cut in the bargain as well

The relationship between the two agencies has been somewhat fractious over the years. Early this year, when TriMet discussed reducing service frequencies on WES to deal with its budget crisis, Wilsonville leaders blew a gasket. WES, despite its many faults, is a useful way for TriMet commuters seeking to reach Wilsonville, as one can get to the Wilsonville transit center on a single TriMet ticket, and then transfer to SMART’s free intra-city lines. (Use of the SMART 2X line, between Barbur TC and Wilsonville, requires paying an extra fare to SMART–the two agencies do not honor transfers from each other).

Discussion

Given all of that–how should TriMet (or transit agencies in general) be funded, and how should it (they) allocate service? Is the payroll tax fair, or should something else be used? Is the current service too Portland-focused? Or, is too much money being wasted on unproductive routes to suburban areas (particularly wealthier neighborhoods without much in the way of transit-dependent populations)? Should political subdivisions receive “level of service” guarantees from the agency?

A few specific ideas to consider:

  • Should cities (or smaller-scale entities such as neighborhoods) have the ability to “purchase” more frequent service than their population or density might otherwise merit, through some sort of local assessment? (We see this already with some types of capital improvements–Portland Streetcar, for instance, was largely funded with a Local Improvement District).
  • Could the Dial-a-ride program be expanded to other classes of transit-dependent riders (beyond the elderly or disabled) to permit the elimination of unprofitable bus lines?
  • Are more smaller transit agencies a good thing? Or is it better to have a single region-wide agency? (Or what of the Seattle model, where numerous local agencies–KC Metro, Community Transit, Pierce Transit–provide local service, and a separate agency–Sound Transit–focuses on regional trips?)
  • Is “local control” a value worth defending (in the transit context)–or does it lead to inequitable results, particularly when wealthy areas try to separate themselves from poorer areas in order to avoid subidizing them?

Keep in mind: The assumption of this site is that public transit is a useful thing–so this thread is not an invitation to discuss proposals to privatize or defund it altogether (i.e. fares should pay 100%).

Tiger II grant winners in Oregon and SW Washington.

The USDOT has just announced the winners of the Tiger II Discretionary Grant program; and four projects in Oregon and SW Washington will receive funding.

The USDOT has just announced the winners of the Tiger II Discretionary Grant program; and the following projects in Oregon and SW Washington will receive funding:

* A project to rehabilitate the Coos Bay Rail Link, which closed in 2007 due to lack of maintenance (and an attempted shakedown of the state by CORP, the shortline that operates the tracks); $13.5 million
* A project to alleviate rail traffic congestion at the Port of Vancouver, $10 million
* A project to add 42 fast charging stations along the I-5 corridor to support electric cars, $2 million.
* A study project to study the building of liveable communities in the Aloha/Reedville area, $1.5 million. (Say hello to Harvey while you’re there!)

Not much for transit this time around; but the freight rail projects are particularly welcome. For more detail, see here and here.