By Portland Business Journal

The Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project may be scaled back due to an unexpected shortfall in federal funds.

The Federal Transit Administration has committed a 50 percent share for the project. Thatâ¿¿s 10 percent shy of what TriMet, the agency overseeing the Portland areaâ¿¿s public transportation matters, had requested.

The gap was likely due to the cost of the Portland-to-Milwaukie line. The federal government has typically provided 60 percent funding for light-rail projects costing less than $1 billion. The budget for the local line was $1.4 billion, though the reduction in federal funds has dropped that number to $1.2 billion.

As it stands now, the federal government will pay up to $735.8 million. Local governments have committed $600 million.

TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane said local officials will ⿿recalibrate the project⿝ so that it will fit within the new funding parameters.

⿿There are lots of different ways to do that,⿝ McFarlane said. ⿿We could simplify station designs, reduce the size of park-and-ride structures, reduce the size of our maintenance facility and potentially phase (in) the last segment of the project. Those are all things that are on the table.⿝

TriMet will meet with regional government partners starting today to determine whether any of them have extra money to contribute to the project.

The project will add a light rail line that connects downtown Portland with north Clackamas County.

The FTA gave three reasons for its decision:

⿢ Its ⿿New Starts⿝ program cannot fund projects costing more than $1 billion. It also didn⿿t want to create a precedent for funding more than half of projects costing more than $1 billion.

â¿¢ The U.S. Department of Transportationâ¿¿s budget hasnâ¿¿t increased, and the federal Transportation reauthorization bill is not moving forward.

â¿¢ Thereâ¿¿s no anticipated increase in most domestic spending.

The 7.3-mile Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project is the regionâ¿¿s sixth MAX line. It would extend from Portland State University to South Waterfront, Southeast Portland, Milwaukie and North Clackamas County. The project includes a multi-modal transit bridge over the Willamette River, the first new bridge over the river in 35 years.

Copyright 2010 American City Business Journals

http://portland.bizjournals.com/portland/stories/2010/07/26/daily2.html?ana=thestreet

Copyright bizjournals.com 2010

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