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PORTLAND -- Changes in federal government priorities on transportation spending is leaving TriMet with a $54 million deficit to complete a new seven-mile Milwaukie light rail line.

The Portland area used to be one of the only contenders for federal light rail funding. But now, dozens of cities across the U.S. are competing for the same pot of light rail dollars.

We're looking at all of our partners to see what they could bring to the table, said TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch.

TriMet recently received a letter from the Federal Transit Administration that the U.S Government was willing to fund only half of the $1.5 billion project.

That's uncharacteristic, said Fetsch.

We've had a track record of 60% or more (federal funding) for all of the light rail projects we've built to date. So we were really hoping for that, she said.

Metro announced that the regional government would provide an additional $27 million into the new gap.

TriMet wants the City of Portland to add $25 million.

The solution can't be balanced solely on the backs of Portland tax payers, said Portland Mayor Sam Adams. It's gonna take everybody.

Adams doesn't know where Portland is going to find the requested money. It would potentially have to come from other transportation sources such as sidewalks and safety streetlights, he said.

There are trade offs here, said Adams.

But at the same time, Adams says the Milwaukie light rail project is crucial; it will connect new streetcar tracks to a new transit bridge and onto the tram, as well as connecting to neighborhoods and cities to the south that are currently transit-starved.

I don't have it figured out yet, said dams. I'm going to work on it.

The City of Milwaukie is watching all this with bated breath. Without light rail, the future is dimmer, says Milwaukie City Council President Greg Chaimov.

It will make it that much harder for us to bring people to our community, he said.

TriMet has six months to solve the funding puzzle. If there were a significant delay, it could drive up construction costs by $60 million.

The agency says it's confident it'll overcome this hurdle despite the current state of the economy.

To help cover the funding gap, TriMet is also proposing cuts to the project.

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