Federal funds sought for bridge, other projects

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution asking the U.S. Congress for $140 million for three major regional transportation projects.
The funding is being sought by the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System, which helps administer state and federal transportation and highway dollars, as part of the 2010 federal transportation and policy legislation.
Among the projects is the replacement of the Veterans Memorial Bridge, a project the state estimates will cost $56 million. While the state is providing $25 million toward the project, PACTS is expected to ask Congress to provide the rest.
The resolution also seeks $90 million for capital improvements for a “Portland North” commuter service to Brunswick. Those funds would be used to improve abandoned rail lines for either a commuter train or dedicated rapid transit lane for buses.
PACTS is also seeking $25 million for 61 public transit vehicles, including a passenger ferry. Twenty-nine buses and 31 paratransit vans and buses would also be purchased if the funds are approved by Congress.
PACTS is in the process of collecting feedback from the 15 communities it represents and is expected to send a final, prioritized list to the state’s congressional delegation in March.
The three projects were chosen after gathering citizen input at four public hearings and a regional phone survey.
In other business, the council also accepted a $2,000 grant for underaged drinking enforcement. The money must be used during the next six months, not only for enforcement, but also for public education campaigns. The council also accepted a $15,000 donation by United Way of Greater Portland for the city’s heating assistance program.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net.
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