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Transit project numbers are nearly split

The people have spoken, and it's clear how numerous both supporters and opponents of the proposed streetcar are. The two camps are nearly evenly split, but according to Metro's documentation, proponents have the lead.

Metro staff recently wrapped up a summary on public comment on the Portland to Lake Oswego Transit Project which would allow West Linn residents to drive or take the bus to access the streetcar in downtown Lake Oswego. A total of 471 comments were included - 392 written and 79 spoken at the public hearing. Seventeen of the written comments were received within three days of the Dec. 3 to Jan. 31 comment period in the spirit of inclusion.

While the proposed streetcar showed significant community support, it was also the alternative with the most staunch adversaries.

Though not everyone addressed the route that the streetcar would take, most favored the line sticking to the Willamette Shore Line (WSL) in both Dunthorpe and John's Landing. There was no preference expressed for either suggested alignment in Lake Oswego.

Additionally, those who addressed the design options for the route were not necessarily in favor of the streetcar but rather gave their preference of two choices anyway.

In Dunthorpe, two designs have been proposed: either the WSL, which passes between the street and neighbor's homes in a small stretch of the line, or in-street on Riverwood Road, which could cause an intersection with Highway 43 to close. Twenty-three favored the WSL, while seven favored Riverwood.

In John's Landing, the citizen advisory committee had overwhelmingly suggested the in-street Macadam option as the best route due to its ability to spur redevelopment in the district. Additionally, the WSL passes very near river-side condominiums. In contrast, 27 people expressed a desire to keep the streetcar on the WSL anyway, while only 16 favored Macadam.

Streetcar concerns and questions

Some environmentalists are concerned about the impact of the streetcar to wildlife and aquatic species, the level of the floodplain loss and wetland and waterway disturbance during construction, as well as earthquake and landslide risk.

'The DEIS makes the argument that the bus alternatives are more damaging to the ecosystems as they do not offer the opportunity to restore habitat, repair culverts, etc… Restoration projects could be funded and accomplished at any time independent of a transit project,' wrote Citizens for Stewardship of Lake Oswego Lands.

Some said that a park-and-ride facility at Albertsons either won't fit with the character of Lake Oswego or should be designed carefully to be sure it does. Lake Oswego Historic Resources Advisory Board wanted to be sure the project team understood concerns about preserving existing Richard Sundeleaf buildings near the planned parking terminus.

The Birdshills CPO/NA recommended a public vote and a new alternatives analysis for a streetcar alignment through Johns Landing, along Taylors Ferry and Boones Ferry roads through the cemetery to Tryon Creek State Park and into downtown Lake Oswego.

Stampher Road Home-Owners Association was also opposed to the streetcar.

Comments addressed a wide variety of issues including concern about noise and vibration, safety at streetcar crossings, the stability of the federal funding match and the potential for increased crime.

Citizens also questioned a number of things including: the ability of TriMet and the region to afford the operating costs in the long-term, an increasing population forecast for Lake Oswego and the value of the appraisal on the WSL.

'I see this… being a knife that will cut through the community separating the working folks using the line and the homeowners who are opposed to it because of their very expensive homesite values being impacted,' said Joan Call of Lake Oswego.

Enthusiasm for the streetcar

Those who supported the streetcar enthusiastically envision the line as a catalyst for redevelopment and view the Foothills area as a future home for senior citizens, young professionals and young families.

'I strongly believe that an investment in the (streetcar alternative) will encourage good business and young families to move to our area… something we are all looking for. A vibrant community that attracts good jobs and citizens,' wrote Jennings Insurance Agency, located in downtown Lake Oswego.

Supporters pointed to projected travel times, which would be better on the streetcar, as a reason to choose that alternative. Additionally, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced with the streetcar.

Lake Oswego Natural Resources Advisory Board felt that the streetcar is the cleaner option, but asked the project team to take care in the design of the crossing of Tryon Creek.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 10 agreed that streetcar may be environmentally preferred overall even though the enhanced bus has less aquatic impacts. It suggested a route that stays on the existing track.

'… Ultimately the decision regarding selection of an alternative and potentially of design options will be locally based. We encourage that the selected alternative be designed to achieve maximum benefits to the environment and the local community,' wrote the EPA.

The streetcar also got support from businesses: Naseco Macadam Market; Oswego Lender, LLC, who owns the Oswego Pointe Apartments; Oregon Public Broadcasting; and Terramar Retail Centers, who owns the Oswego Village in Old Town.

'The challenges include balancing the public use of the property with the existing private improvements and the operational needs of our tenants, while the potential opportunities include increased potential for redevelopment of (Oswego) Village and related public/private partnerships to provide enhanced infrastructure necessary to serve any such redevelopment,' Terramar wrote.

Community organizations supportive of the streetcar include: Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee and Portland Pedestrian Advisory Committee, South Waterfront Neighborhood Association, North Macadam Urban Renewal Advisory Committee and Willamette Shores Condominiums.

Enhanced bus

The enhaced bus also had a handful of fans, though opinion was mixed on whether that option was really as good as it could be.

Cascade Policy Institute bemoaned the fact that the project team didn't provide a better enhanced bus alternative in the study. 'The enhanced bus option is not very 'enhanced'… It still has too many stops to be called an express bus version, and it includes a detour off of (Highway) 43 to connect with the Lake Oswego Transit Center…'

Some were concerned that the streetcar would not best serve residents in West Linn and Oregon City, who would have to ride the bus to the new park-and-ride and then catch the streetcar to Portland. Instead, most of those contended that enhanced bus was a better option.

Erickson's Automotive in Foothills also supported enhanced bus. 'The streetcar can do very little more in regards to developing the Foothills area over what enhanced bus can do,' it wrote.

Public hearing comments

Public hearing comments - 79 total

Comments supportive of one of the alternatives

31 streetcar

4 enhanced bus

8 no build

Comments opposed to one of the alternatives

22 streetcar

0 enhanced bus

2 no build

Comments with no preference

10

Written comments - 392 total

Comments supportive of one of the alternatives

147 streetcar

45 enhanced bus

56 no build

Comments opposed to one of the alternatives

95 streetcar

0 enhanced bus

8 no build

Comments with no preference

41