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Hot Ziggety — Jobs for Oregon!

Jun 26


Thanks to Portland’s reputation as a streetcar pioneer and a Congressional earmark made by a Eugene politician, a Lake Oswego company looks set to get federal funds to start manufacturing streetcars.

Boondoggle coming soon to a city near you.

Flickr photo by functoruser.

To get those funds, the company only had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbying. This doesn’t count thousands of dollars in campaign contributions made by company officials to said Eugene congressman and other members of Congress.

Portland streetcar under construction in the Czech Republic.

Flickr photo from Portland Transport.

Oh yes, the company had to go to the Czech Republic, where Portland’s existing streetcars were made, to steal the technology. (The company that made Portland’s streetcars refused to “sell its expertise,” so the company “struck a deal” with a Czech competitor.) The Czech manufacturer wanted to bid on the contract, but Defazio had inserted language making foreign companies ineligible.

For only $4 million, Oregon Iron Works (warning: inane audio intro) is going to build one streetcar prototype. Four million? That’s more than the cost of a light-rail vehicle (which can carry almost three times as many people) and about twice as much as Portland spent on the Czech cars. Granted, a prototype may cost more than copies, but why should taxpayers fund the prototype? Portland didn’t pay the Czech manufacturer $4 million for its prototype.

So some poor Czech workers are going to lose their jobs so an Oregon company get get a fat government contract, an Oregon politician can get fat campaign contributions, and Portland can pat itself on the back once more for being a transportation pioneer. Everybody wins — except the Czech’s and the U.S. taxpayers, and they don’t count.

In short, a bloated program just got more bloated. Representative DeFazio (the Eugene politician) predicts American cities will buy $1 billion worth of streetcars in the next twenty years. We antiplanners can only hope he is wrong and that the pork stops here.


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Reprinted from The Antiplanner