(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, gave the keynote remarks at the grand opening celebration for the Sound Transit Central Link light rail line. Senator Murray, who was credited at the event by numerous officials for securing nearly $500 million in federal funding for Central Link and over $1.3 billion for Sound Transit, discussed the tremendous impact light rail will have on the region.
“Sound Transit will get cars off the road, people out of cars and make a difference in protecting our environment for future generations,” Senator Murray said in her remarks. “Today I’m excited to say that Sound Transit went from being that ‘Little Engine that Could’ to a promising new ‘Economic Engine’ for our entire region. It took commitment and sacrifice from an entire region to make it happen – and we’re not done.”
Senator Murray’s full remarks at today’s grand opening follow:
Thank you, Mayor!
What a Great Day!!! It’s a great day for our region. Our Economy. Our Environment. And our future.
And wow – have you seen those trains? Don’t they look just great? I can’t wait to finally ride one without a hard hat!!!
My staff has more photos than I want to think about, of me - and most of you- standing: on piles of dirt, next to piles of dirt, turning piles of dirt, with hard hats and goggles and looking at boring machines – let me say that again: boooring machines – to get to this great day.
But I’ll tell you….it was worth it! There are so many people to thank, but I want to recognize a few who have risen to the occasion time and time again:
Mayor Nickels, thank you for keeping us moving forward. Jim Ellis and Aubrey Cohen thanks for your advocacy. Congressman Norm Dicks, who went to battle with me many times in D.C. – thank you. Secretary of Commerce – or as we call him – Governor - Gary Locke – who I’m glad to see here today. And I’m pleased to have FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff here too – Peter was on my staff in D.C. and knows Sound Transit well. And we should all thank Joni Earl. Joni joined Sound Transit in darker times, took the reins, answered the tough questions, and made today possible.
And we wouldn’t be here – poised to open the doors to these trains and a new era for our region without one group of people. Our workers: the engineers, electricians, ironworkers, truckers, operators, construction workers and so many others. You literally put blood, sweat and tears into getting us here. Thank you so much!
This milestone began over a decade ago when our region came together with a vision for the future we want for our families, environment and economy. We wanted an environmentally-friendly transportation system to reduce congestion, increase commuter options, and lay the foundation for economic growth.
But, while our vision was clear, the path forward often wasn’t. As a member of the Senate committee that oversees federal transportation funding, I secured 3 million dollars so Sound Transit could do the early planning to apply for the federal commitment they needed long-term.
But Sound Transit stumbled. They were over budget and deadline and lacking oversight. That hurt us in DC. And I knew if we didn’t get a $500 million agreement signed by the end of the Clinton Administration, we never would.
So, the night before President Bush was sworn into office Norm and I sent our staff to camp out in Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater’s office until he signed on the dotted line. At 8:30pm – 16 hours before Inauguration - he did.
But the job was just beginning. I went into tough mom mode. I demanded Sound Transit get its house in order.
I put them in time out: No funding until they got it together. I worked with Joni and others to make sure we could answer the tough questions. Sound Transit stepped up and convinced Congress and the Administration not to give up on them. We refused to let our economic growth be held captive by those early problems or political gridlock.
I’ve been proud to secure over $1.3 billion for related transit projects from light rail to buses to park’n’rides - these are the smart, long-term investments our federal government should partner with local communities on.
Congestion is a major problem here. It’s a byproduct of our region’s successes—but it robs families and businesses of precious time and income. Giving commuters choices lessens gridlock. And that’s what light rail does. But Sound Transit is about more than transportation--it’s about jobs.
The planning and construction of Central Link has already created more than 4,000 direct and 30,000 indirect jobs. And Sound Transit will help attract new business, more jobs, and make us more productive long-term. Light rail is also a win for our environment. Our state values our natural surroundings. We lead on renewable energy, conservation, and real goals for emissions reductions.
Sound Transit will get cars off the road, people out of cars and make a difference in protecting our environment for future generations.
In 2003 I stood with many of you as we broke ground. Back then I said that Sound Transit was like the Little Engine That Could. Today I’m excited to say that Sound Transit went from being that ‘Little Engine that Could’ to a promising new ‘Economic Engine’ for our entire region.
It took commitment and sacrifice from an entire region to make it happen – and we’re not done.
We’ll keep going to the airport and work to expand north, south and east in the coming years. But we are realizing a vision here today. Too often we hear the words of the naysayers – on so many things… words like: ‘can’t,’ and ‘shouldn’t’ – well today we did.
Sound Transit is a reminder that if you have a vision to make things better it can happen as long as you don’t give up. We never gave up and we’re here today to celebrate this great milestone.