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Lake Oswego survey shows as many as six in 10 oppose streetcar project

City Council will consider data at its meeting Tuesday night

A survey of Lake Oswego residents aiming to gauge public opinion of a proposed streetcar line to Portland has found that a 'slight majority' of residents oppose the project.

The City Council will discuss survey results at a meeting starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 380 A Ave.

Lake Oswego and Portland are continuing a broader process to study the feasibility of the possible $380 million to $450 million streetcar line, although either could still back out of the deal. Early this year, Lake Oswego council members voted to hire Davis, Hibbitts and Midghall Inc. to complete a survey on the transit project.

Three-hundred Lake Oswego registered voters took the 12-minute telephone survey. The group included people with landlines and others who mostly use cellphones, and it met quotas surveyors set based on age, gender, zip code and political party. The results have a margin of error of about 3.4 percent to 5.6 percent.

The goal was to measure support for bringing streetcar service to Lake Oswego and to assess voters' priorities on a range of development and transportation issues.

The survey asked voters twice for their support of the streetcar project. Regardless of whether they were given information about costs and financing, a majority opposed the project. Of every 10 people surveyed, more than five were against the streetcar.

An executive summary of survey results notes there appears to be 'significant support' for the streetcar project - with about 40 percent of respondents saying they generally supported the project. At the same time, the summary states, voters see many other problems they want elected officials to solve and they are concerned about protecting public services funding and preventing tax increases.

Those opposed to the streetcar often cited expenses or said the project was unnecessary. Those in favor of the streetcar said they supported public transportation in general and hoped to reduce traffic congestion.

When given information about financing, 38 percent said they'd be more likely to support the project if no current public services funds were used to pay for it; 37 percent said they were more likely to support it if ensured their taxes wouldn't go up.

Democrats were 'significantly more supportive of the streetcar' - at least half were at least somewhat supportive of the idea. On the other hand, 70 percent of Republicans were at least somewhat unsupportive. Independents fell somewhere in between those two groups.

City council members are still awaiting an updated appraisal of the Willamette Shore Line right of way, where the streetcar would run, and they want a financing plan for the city's share of project costs. Officials are now coming up with new expense estimates but initially guessed the entire project would cost about $458 million; Lake Oswego's share could be $17 million.

The City Council also plans to hold a citywide vote on the streetcar project in May 2012.

Here's a rundown of other information from the streetcar survey:

• In terms of transportation issues overall, a little more than half of survey respondents felt maintaining and repairing existing roads is a high or urgent priority.

Other priority transportation issues included dealing with traffic congestion on Highway 43, followed by bringing more frequent public transit service to the city, creating more bike routes within the city and creating more pathways linking pedestrians to neighborhoods and shopping areas.

• On the topic of planning principles, a majority of those surveyed felt it was a good idea for the city to restrict new development so Lake Oswego maintains its existing character.

The next 'most acceptable' of six planning principles involved encouraging people to use public transit and bike or walk to get around. More Democrats and independent voters felt this was a priority than Republicans; it was also more important to people in the northeast section of the city than in other areas.

Many people also felt the city should encourage development of housing that is affordable to new families, teachers, public safety workers and young professionals, and that Lake Oswego should support development in underdeveloped areas of the city so long as it maintains the character of existing neighborhoods. More Democrats than other voters supported these ideas.

Democrats and independents were also more likely to think the city should encourage development that helps people shop closer to home.

Of the planning principles, survey takers were least enthused about mixing different development types together - with housing built above retail and office spaces - but again Democrats and independent voters were more likely to feel this was important than Republicans.

• In terms of reducing traffic congestion on Highway 43 without extending Portland's streetcar line, 31 percent of those surveyed suggested improving bus service, 7 percent mentioned widening the highway and 6 percent wanted more bike paths. Another 7 percent said they didn't feel traffic congestion was a problem.