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Streetcar Summit

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Blumenauer) for 5 minutes.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, this week, people from dozens of cities around America are gathering for the annual Streetcar Summit.

For the last 25 years, I've been working to reintroduce the modern streetcar to American communities. We started with a project in Portland, Oregon, over 20 years ago. It was a great pleasure for me to see this open in 2001 and watch how this streetcar investment anchored revitalization in the downtown, led to over $3 billion of private and public investment along the right-of-way, encouraged over 22 million people to ride the streetcar, and developed into a signature project for our community.

More recently, when the new administration was sworn into office, I worked with the White House to implement legislation that I had in the last reauthorization that we called ``Small Starts,'' which somehow had stalled. Within 4 months, the new administration was able to help us figure out how to move it forward. In October of 2009, we were able to sign an agreement with the Obama administration and start the project.

I'm pleased to report that this project--which has provided over 1,800 jobs, that is extending a 3\1/3\-mile line--will be open. In fact, we've invited President Obama to ride on the first official trip. He can ride this year on a project that started in the first year of his administration, now a completed project. As an added bonus, he would be able to ride the first American-built streetcar in 58 years.

While it's manufactured in Portland, Oregon--I say with some modest pride--it makes a difference for people around the country because it's going to be provided to other communities like Tucson, Arizona, in the project I worked on with our former colleague, Gabby Giffords. And subcontracting is occurring throughout the upper Midwest, where smaller manufacturers are helping construct this product made in America.

As a result of the administration's investment of $419 million since October of 2009, we're watching projects take place in 10 cities across America--in Detroit, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Salt Lake--that are moving forward with this vision. Indeed, the people in the conference that will be here this week represent operating systems that are now in Seattle, San Francisco, Galveston, Little Rock, Memphis, New Orleans, Lowell, Massachusetts, Kenosha, Wisconsin. There are communities all across America that have seized this vision and are moving forward. They are coming together to deal with how communities, large and small, can seize on this proven technology that was, after all, the cornerstone of urban development long about 1900. This was the technology that was driving American community development. Well, it still can drive community development, provide tens of thousands of jobs, be able to help focus the revitalization of, what in some areas, are troubled neighborhoods. It's an opportunity to bring people together on the streetscape, to be able to give a different environment for shopping, recreating, and, frankly, preventing pollution, congestion--in many cases a trip not taken.

I strongly urge my colleagues, when the opportunity arises this week, to meet some of the people in the vanguard of America's new streetcar renaissance. A simple, commonsense, proven technology that's cost-effective, that provides an anchor for development, giving people an opportunity to give another choice to the residents--empowering them, making their neighborhoods more livable, their families safer, healthier, and more economically secured.

This is what this Congress should be working on, coming together to take projects like this, a constructive Federal partnership, stretching dollars and making a success that we can all be proud of.