Peter Rogoff, FTA
St. Paul, MN
This is a great day for the Twin Cities.
This is a great day for Minnesota.
It’s a great day for thousands of Minnesota construction workers still looking for a steady paycheck.
It’s a great day for thousands more Minnesotans that will be looking for ways to spend less of their paycheck at the gas pump.
As President Obama’s Federal Transit Administrator, I’m here to tell you that the Obama Administration is thrilled to be your partner in this project.
With the signing of this grant agreement today, the Obama Administration has committed to awarding nearly $480 million dollars—half the total cost—to help Minnesota build the single largest public works project in its history.
You should all be tremendously proud of this accomplishment.
I want to thank the state and local leaders who have worked together to help make this vision a reality, including:
- Gov. Mark Dayton
- Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar
- Congressmen Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison
- Mayor Coleman and Mayor Ryback
- The commissioners of Ramsey and Hennepin Counties; especially Peter McLaughlin and Jim McDonough
- Metropolitan Council Chair Sue Haigh.
I especially want to thank the community leaders and advocates that have fought and scratched and clawed to make this an even better project than it was three years ago.
Secretary LaHood and I were very pleased to come to St. Paul last year and announce that we were reversing a Bush Administration rule that was keeping three stations in the heart of the African-American and Asian-American community from being built.
The residents and community leaders showed us in the starkest terms that the old policy meant that the certain communities were literally going to watch the train enter their community and leave without stopping.
Today, as a result of their efforts, we have a much better project – one that is going to serve all the people of the Twin Cities. And we are going to have better projects across the country as well.
Thank you for your commitment and perseverance.
As you well know, for the last 30 years, people have been questioning whether the Twin Cities would ever be connected by rail.
Today, 30 years of uncertainty and doubt comes to an end.
And this breakthrough commitment from the Obama Administration couldn’t come at a better time.
The Central Corridor light rail line is going to be an economic lifeline for hard-working families and students throughout the region, generating over 570 jobs last year. . . with over 3,000 jobs in construction and engineering, still to come.
We are talking about good, family-wage jobs, right now when we need them most.
This project is also going to be a tremendous boost for the 1,000 or so small businesses that line the corridor along Washington and University Avenues. . . from the Gremlin Theatre, to Red House Records, to all the restaurants, art facilities and nonprofit organizations in the neighborhoods along the corridor.
After the construction is done, you are going to see development along this corridor that is going to mean thousands of more jobs – enduring jobs that will mean an even more vibrant economy for the generations to be served by this rail line.
Whether your destination is the Metro Dome, the University, State Capitol complex, the Target, or the Goodwill consignment store, light rail is going to take you there.
And every time you take light rail instead of your car, you are keeping gas money in your wallet rather than giving it away.
The Obama Administration is determined to help control skyrocketing gas prices by lowering our dependence on oil.
And a key component of President Obama’s plan is give consumers real choices – choices like light rail and more regular and reliable bus service.
The President has said that there is no silver bullet to bringing gas prices down right away. But his plan to lower our dependence on foreign oil has, at its center, the goal of giving the American people real choices – choices that will keep gas money in their pocket.
For some families, it will be driving a more fuel efficient vehicle as a result of our raising fuel efficiency standards.
For others, it will be driving one of the new fully electric vehicles that are just now being deployed.
For a great many of us, it’s going to be riding projects like the Central Corridor – made possible by our Federal commitment of $480 million. It’s going to be riding clean and reliable bus service made possible by the increased transit funding President Obama has put in his budget.
What all these policies mean for us is fewer trips to the gas station, and more of our money going to our daily needs rather than to the oil companies.
So this project is about a lot more than just mobility along University Avenue.
This project is at the center of what President Obama was talking about in his State of the Union Address when he talked about winning the future through investments in our infrastructure.
Even in an age of austerity, we must continue investing in more and better ways to connect people with jobs, with school, with health care, with housing, and all the other things that improve your quality of life and prepare the next generation for success.
That’s exactly what the Central Corridor project will do.
The Obama Administration is proud to be your partner.
We thank all of the other partners for their leadership in making this day possible.