Portland's tardy, apparently cash-strapped bike share system has "some pretty significant commitments" from potential sponsors, transportation Commissioner Steve Novick tells the Mercury, in what may be the strongest statement on the state of the project to date.

"On the money side, I feel much better about it than I did three months ago," Novick said. "I think we're going to have serious commitments from people who do have the money."

But he wouldn't go into detail on who potential sponsors are—healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente is widely rumored—or when an actual announcement might be made. He also refused to speculate on whether the city might see the necessary sponsorship money up front—an estimated $5.5 million is needed to purchase the system and operate it for five years—or whether it would trickle in over time.

According to internal documents [pdf] first reported on by Willamette Week, the Portland Bureau of Transportation has mulled fronting the start-up costs for the system, then recouping the money over time.

"I'm not gonna get into the details at all," Novick said.

The commissioner acknowledged some concern over news the Canada-based company that would supply bikes and docks for the system is experiencing serious financial hardship. The supplier, PBSC Urban Solutions, works with Portland-based Alta Bicycle Share to start systems throughout the country.

"We do have concerns about the contractor," Novick said, though he noted: "They always deliver bikes. They've never not delivered bikes."

Portland's system was initially promised this past spring, but sponsorship money's been hard to come by. That's a problem shared by other cities who want to join the bike share craze. Seattle is in nearly the same boat as Portland, though it has money in hand to institute a partial network.

While officials have said spring 2014 is the new launch date, even that's looking unlikely. Once money is identified, it takes roughly half a year to implement a system.

"Spring goes into June," Novick said. "We're not giving up on that yet.

"Hopefully within the next six weeks, I'll be able to tell you something."