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Secretary Ray LaHood Remarks as Prepared Sugar House Streetcar Line

Thank you, Michael, for the introduction.  Thank you all for joining us.

I’m delighted to be here in Utah. This is the 40th state I’ve visited since taking office.  And I’m thrilled to share official news that the U.S. DOT will provide Salt Lake City with $26 million for the Sugar House streetcar line.

A century ago, streetcars were a common sight in cities across America.  But by the 1960s, most communities had phased them out – to the great detriment of neighborhoods and downtowns. 

Today, streetcars are coming back.  They’re reviving the same neighborhoods they once helped create.  And, because of you, Salt Lake will be at the forefront of America’s streetcar renaissance.

Now, from day one, President Obama and the U.S. DOT have focused on building bridges between Americans who need jobs and jobs that need doing – jobs like connecting neighborhoods with affordable transit.  At a time when too many of our families, friends, and neighbors are out of work.  At a time when too much of our infrastructure is overburdened and outdated.  The president deployed an economic plan that takes on both these problems at once – a plan that invests in America’s infrastructure as the means of laying a new foundation for economic opportunity and prosperity.

The Recovery Act was step one.  It’s financed almost 15,000 transportation projects spread across every state in the union.  It’s improved 40,000 miles of roadways.  It will help connect 80 percent of Americans with a high-speed rail network within the next quarter-century. 

And through the TIGER grant program – that’s Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery – the Recovery Act is also financing merit-based projects across the country.  Last week, we unveiled a second round of competitive TIGER grants that build on our success and support critical projects that deserve federal funding but otherwise wouldn’t receive it. 

The 75 winning projects, including Salt Lake City’s streetcar system, are indispensable – which is why they were selected from more than 1,000 applications requesting $19 billion.  Some TIGER II grants will fund innovative projects like urban circulator buses, bicycle lanes, and multimodal transportation stations.  Others will fund more traditional projects that don’t fit neatly into old formulas – for example bridge construction and freight movement.  But each grant rewards true excellence, effective partnerships, and good stewardship of taxpayer dollars – as is certainly the case right here.  These same commitments inform President Obama’s vision for the future of America’s infrastructure – starting with a $50 billion upfront investment – which we hope Congress will adopt when it gets back to business. 

Ultimately, everything we do reflects a fundamental recognition: Americans can still build great things not just in spite of enormous economic challenges, but as the means of overcoming them.  In America’s first century, we carved the Erie Canal and connected the coasts with the transcontinental railroad.  In our second century, we built our interstate highways and the bridges, tunnels, and transit systems that are still the lifelines of our economy. 

Each succeeding American generation has demonstrated the foresight and courage to invest in the most important infrastructure projects of their time.  We can do no less – whether it’s Salt Lake’s streetcar system or any of countless other projects that enable people to pursue their livelihoods. 

We can still dream big.  We can still build big.  We can once again make this nation’s infrastructure the envy of the world.  With that, I’m delighted to introduce South Salt Lake Mayor, Cherie Wood.

Thank you very much.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010