Morgan's Brain

Nov. 22, 2008 at 1:00am

Can Barack Obama Help Tacoma Get Streetcars?

During the recent presidential election, I signed onto a petition making rounds through transportation advocacy circles. The petition was sent to both McCain and Obama asking them to direct greater investment into transportation systems - such as a proposed city wide streetcar system for Tacoma. I was totally blown away today to see that President-elect Barack Obama responded with a 2-page letter.

Here's the petition:

America’s transportation system is half a century behind and the increasing costs of moving around – paid for in dollars at the pump and hours lost sitting on congested, crumbling roads – are taking a real toll on American families.

We need our next president to lead an initiative to invest in public transit, high-speed trains, places to bike and walk, and green innovation. We need a president with a plan that can put millions to work in jobs that can’t be outsourced, bring down the costs of travel, and create a sustainable infrastructure that will keep America on the cutting edge.

I hope you will take the opportunity presented by your final debate to discuss your plans to build a 21st Century transportation system.

Here's Obama's response:

Dear Friends,

I appreciate the opportunity to share a few thoughts with the members of Transportation for America about our nation’s transportation future. Thank you for sending me your petition, and for supporting investment in infrastructure.

You’ve hit on one of the central challenges facing America now – how to convert this moment of crisis into a moment of opportunity. And I think you’ve identified an important part of the answer as well. Our economy is slowing down, we need to stimulate it. Jobs are disappearing; we need to create new ones. At the same time, our infrastructure is crumbling and we need to rebuild it.

Now is the time to invest in our future and strengthen our core infrastructure. You said we must build to compete in the global economy and fix what’s broken, and I agree. I’ll put two million more Americans to work rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges and transit systems – because it is time to build an American infrastructure for the 21st century. Early in this campaign, I had already proposed creating a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank, funded with $60 billion over 10 years, to expand and enhance, not replace, existing federal transportation investments. Now, with unemployment rising, these investments are even more important.

You said we need to invest in green technology, and I agree. I will invest $150 billion over the next decade in renewable sources of energy to create five million new, green jobs – jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced; jobs building solar panels and wind turbines and fuel- efficient cars; jobs that will help us end our dependence on oil from Middle East dictators.

I support Amtrak funding and the development of high-speed freight and passenger rail networks across the country. As you may know, I cosponsored the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act in the U.S. Senate, and supported the successful effort to get this important legislation to the President’s desk this year. And I’m pleased that the President signed this bill into law just last week. I will also re-commit federal resources to public mass transportation projects across the country. I’ve worked to improve transportation access to jobs for people with lower incomes since my time in the Illinois State Senate, and I will continue this work as President. And I will further promote transit by creating incentives for transit usage that are equal to the current incentives for driving.

As you know, all of these measures will have significant environmental and metropolitan planning advantages and help diversify our nation’s transportation infrastructure. Everyone benefits if we can leave our cars, walk, bicycle and access other transportation alternatives. I agree that we can stop wasteful spending and save Americans money, and as president, I will re- evaluate the transportation funding process to ensure that smart growth considerations are taken into account.

I will build upon my efforts in the Senate to ensure that more Metropolitan Planning Organizations create policies to incentivize greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of roads and sidewalks. And as president, I will work to provide states and local governments with the resources they need to address sprawl and create more livable communities.

I encourage you to look at my positions and record versus those of Senator McCain. He has consistently fought federal support for Amtrak, including a vote against the package containing the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act that even President Bush was willing to sign this week. For decades in the Senate and as Chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee, McCain opposed capital funding for Amtrak time and time again and wanted to dismantle Amtrak entirely.

My running mate Joe Biden and I will provide better leadership that supports the priorities of your members, and we hope to have your votes on November 4th. Thank you again for the opportunity to share these thoughts with the members of Transportation for America. Together, we can create the changes we seek.


Barack Obama


comments [9]  |  posted under obama, streetcar, tacoma


by morgan on 12/7/2008 @ 12:05am
From Obama's latest weekly address:

"...we will create millions of jobs by making the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s. We?ll invest your precious tax dollars in new and smarter ways, and we?ll set a simple rule ? use it or lose it. If a state doesn?t act quickly to invest in roads and bridges in their communities, they?ll lose the money."

Could this be a solution for streetcars in Tacoma AND making the Murray Morgan Bridge operation again? Stay tuned...

by Erik on 12/7/2008 @ 12:20am
Could this be a solution for streetcars in Tacoma AND making the Murray Morgan Bridge operation again? Stay tuned...

Tacoma needs to request a "new investment" for streetcars from Obama. The worst case would be that the local powers that be use the funds for the ill designed cross base highway.

by michael g. on 12/7/2008 @ 12:07pm
It's my understanding that the Murray Morgan bridge repairs meet the "ready to go" criteria for the impending infrastructure stimulus package. If the streetcar idea is to benefit from subsequent funding (it's too late for the first round of "ready to go" projects), the city (and Sound Transit?) need to get some feasibility and design studies underway quickly.

by NineInchNachos on 12/7/2008 @ 12:17pm
it's not a new investment for tacoma streetcars.

it's a REinvestment... tacoma used to have a great network of streetcars. I've seen the map hanging in suite 133.

Detroit's big 3 should be cranking out rail rolling stock.

by tacoma1 on 12/7/2008 @ 12:18pm
I am sure that Gov Chris has given the Obama people a list of projects that need funding. Although I would love it if her list included Tacoma infrastructure, my guess or fear is that 520 and the Alaskan Way viaduct are higher on her list in both priority and dollars. Hopefully the Feds require that a large portion of any transportation funds are spent on green transportation. Gregoire has been a passive supporter of street cars and light rail infrastructure up to now, hopefully she takes a leadership role for the future.

by Erik on 12/7/2008 @ 1:03pm
It's my understanding that the Murray Morgan bridge repairs meet the "ready to go" criteria for the impending infrastructure stimulus package.

Yeah. The MM bridge should get funded by this. Let's hope our elected leaders can pull some meaningful REinvestment rather than just more eviscerating suburban slop.

Hopefully the Feds require that a large portion of any transportation funds are spent on green transportation.

Yep. Every transportation package assumes Seattle is the middle of the universe and treats Tacoma like a remote feeder. Thus, Seattle is getting some great streetcar and urban components and Tacoma and Pierce County get buses and road building.

by Urban E on 12/8/2008 @ 8:19am
Should the question be can Tacoma help Tacoma get streetcars? Seems that we are always one step behind everyone, even Olympia. We don't even have a definite route yet so that hardly would be considered impending. Our planning commission cancelled the last mixed use discussion after the meeting started, are you kidding me! Now we're about to get 3 new commissioners who will need to play catch up after we just got a new one who needed to play catch up.

by Erik on 12/8/2008 @ 10:59am
Now we're about to get 3 new commissioners who will need to play catch up after we just got a new one who needed to play catch up.

True. The effort to restore Tacoma's streetcars is going to have to be from the grass roots level up.

by tacoma1 on 12/15/2008 @ 9:13am
I noticed this in the TNT. It appears obvious that our mayor doesn't have Tacoma street cars on the ready to go list for any federal stimulus money.

From the US Mayors Report on �Ready to go Projects�

Tacoma WA CDBG Murray Morgan Bridge
The Murray Morgan Bridge is currently closed to vehicular traffic due to its severe state
of disrepair. While the bridge is currently open to pedestrian traffic, the Washington
State Department of Transporta5on has determined that 3,000,000 48

Tacoma WA CDBG Structural Sidewalks
The City of Tacoma currently has a number of structural sidewalks that are unsafe as
determined by the City�s structural engineer. These structural sidewalk�s poten5al for
collapse pose a hazard to pedestrians as well as the occupan 3,000,000 48

City State Program Project Descrip3on Funding Jobs
Tacoma WA CDBG Americans with Disabili5es Act Curb Ramp Program
In 2007 a survey of sidewalks and intersec5ons was completed by the City of Tacoma.
The survey found that 17,754 curb ramps needed to be constructed to fully comply with
the Americans with Disabili5es A 15,000,000 239

Tacoma WA CDBG Puyallup River Bridge
This dilapidated structure, an important east‐west connec5on between the Port of
Tacoma and the City of Tacoma as well as the City of Fife, has serious structural issues
and may soon have load limits imposed on it. Replacing the 25,000,000 398

Tacoma WA CDBG Arterial Street Program
The arterial street program currently has 12 projects that are par5ally funded through
grants and other means. These projects cannot be put out to bid un5l they are fully
funded. A total of $13.2 million in grants has been alloc 18,100,000 478

The link is here, it is a huge pdf file��