U.S.Transportation Secretary LaHood at the historic Union Depot Station
On Monday, Sept.19, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff visited Minnesota in support of President Obama’s American Jobs Act and called on Congress to make significant investments in job-creating transportation projects across the country like the currently underway Central Corridor Light Rail project.
“President Obama is committed to putting more Americans back on the job while modernizing our nation’s roads, rails, airports and waterways,” said Secretary Ray LaHood. “Congress needs to pass the American Jobs Act right away so we can put construction workers back on the job all across the country.”
Secretary LaHood and Administrator Rogoff visited the historic Union Depot Station in downtown St. Paul, which is currently under construction as part of the new Central Corridor Light Rail Line. Construction of the line is expected to generate more than 3,300 jobs, including positions related to engineering, design, construction and operations. The line includes 18 new stations, 31 new rail cars and a new vehicle maintenance facility in St. Paul. It is scheduled to open in 2014.
“Transportation investments are crucial to fixing our aging transit systems and putting more money in the pockets of working Americans,” Rogoff said. “Like the thousands of Minnesotans earning a steady paycheck today because of federally-funded projects like the Central Corridor Light Rail Line, millions more Americans are looking for the same opportunity to rebuild our country and economy.”
Congresswoman Betty McCollum, one of several political and community dignitaries present, said, "Thousands of jobs for workers in hardhats mean that they can buy back–to-school supplies for their kids and pay their mortgages. This is an example of the kind of community projects that should happen. Millions of construction workers are on the bench in the United States while infrastructure is crumbling and international competition passes us by. Congress needs to get back to work for America."
Said Congressman Keith Ellison, "Our parents and grandparents made the investments and built the infrastructure that we are sitting on today and they are asking us, “What are you going to do?” This what we’re doing, we’re building this light rail. This is what we need to be doing."
"The president and Governor Dayton know we need rail projects like this. Politicians in Washington and St. Paul need to catch up. Critics of the Central Corridor light-rail project should look at these workers getting high-paid jobs...These projects put friends and neighbors to work and provide the next generation of transportation. We will not deny our children these benefits. We will not be dissuaded by naysayers," stated LaHood.
In April 2011, Administrator Rogoff signed a Full Funding Grant Agreement to provide $474 million in New Starts funds for construction of the 11-mile light rail project that will link the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul, the two largest cities and employment centers in the state. The total cost of the project is $957 million.
In addition to the Central Corridor Light Rail Line, federal funds helped create more than 225 jobs between July and November of this year alone for construction of the Union Depot Multi-Modal Transportation Hub. When completed, the facility will accommodate Amtrak, regional transit buses and intercity buses, and provide easy access to the light rail line.
Said Governor Mark Dayton, "I've been to China several times and I've seen how they are building rail lines to to relieve congestion and get goods to market. But political "no's" in Washington are puting us behind. We need high-speed rail to connect Rochester and the Mayo Clinic to th Minneapolis/St.Paul airport."
More than half of the $243 million multi-modal facility is being paid for with a combination of federal funds, including the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, and $35 million from the U.S. DOT’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program.
Photos and event coverage by Randy Croce, Labor Education Service, University of Minnesota