by: Jaime Valdez TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane, at podium, closes a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday morning marking the start of construction for a new transit bridge over the Willamette River. In the background, Portland Fire & Rescue’s Fireboat George Williams sprays water into the air as part of the ceremony.

The start of construction of the Portland-to-Milwaukie light-rail project was celebrated Thursday morning as TriMet officials began work on the new transit bridge over the Willamette River.

Federal, state, county and city official joined construction workers on the plaza behind the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, near where the east end of the bridge will touch down after crossing the river from the South Waterfront area on the west side.

'This project will continue our region's proactive approach to transportation, said U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Portland Democrat representing Oregon's 3rd Congressional District who helped secure the 50 percent federal matching funds for the project.

Blumenauer and others talked about how construction of the project will create an estimated 14,000 jobs, while the finished rail line will help reduce congestion and pollution in the Southeast McLoughlin Boulevard corridor.

'Even if you never ride the train, that's why you can and should support this project,' said Portland Mayor Sam Adams.

TriMet is responsible for the project's construction. Agency General Manager Neil McFarlane and members of the board were a big part of Thursday's ceremony, along with Oregon's Department of Transportation, Metro, Multnomah and Clackamas counties, and the city of Milwaukie.

The 7.3-mile project is estimated to cost around $1.5 billion. The bridge is budgeted at $134 million. It will carry MAX trains, buses, streetcars, bicyclists and pedestrians but not private automobiles across the river.

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