I strongly support extending the Portland streetcar to Lake Oswego as soon as possible. Despite attempts by some to confuse the issues, the fundamentals of this project are pretty clear.
As the region grows, there will be a growing need for more capacity in the Highway 43 corridor. The roadway cannot be widened, and even if it could, there is nowhere for more traffic to go in Portland or State Street.
Expanding bus service cannot provide long-term relief, because buses get stuck in the same congestion, making them less attractive to ride, and more costly to operate. And no one likes standing in the street waiting for a bus. Putting more buses on Highway 43 will actually reduce capacity for other traffic.
By contrast, the streetcar provides the most practical way to permanently improve travel in the Highway 43 corridor, with the least impact. Consider:
* Streetcars are a well-proven and popular transit mode that can provide an attractive alternative to driving and finding parking. The Portland streetcar system has become the envy of cities nationwide.
* The Lake Oswego streetcar would be the region's ninth major rail project. Almost all of these have been completed on time, and within budget.
* Unlike the no-build and bus options, the streetcar has a large capacity reserve for future growth in travel demand without adversely impacting other traffic.
* State Street is a local traffic bottleneck. The streetcar could eventually be extended southwards towards West Linn, and thus provide long-term relief to the bottleneck.
* The streetcar will help senior citizens (many of whom no longer like to drive, nor wait for a bus along Highway 43) remain active, and get to Portland for entertainment and professional services and to OSHU.
* The streetcar will improve transit service and reduce transit-operating costs.
* It will stimulate the redevelopment of the Foothills area as an urban center, enhance downtown Lake Oswego, and encourage transit use throughout the corridor.
* It will reduce greenhouse gases, and oil dependency, both directly and by encouraging transit-oriented development in Lake Oswego.
* It will connect Lake Oswego into the Portland region's growing rail transit system, to the new medical campus with its thousands of jobs in South Waterfront, to OHSU, to downtown Portland and the airport to the Blazer's games etc. It's a long list, and getting longer.
* And it will never be cheaper. In the mid 1990s, Milwaukie opted not to proceed with light rail, and their light rail line was shelved After further years studying alternatives, Milwaukie decided rail was a good idea after all, by which time they had endured years of planning uncertainty, the cost had increased almost threefold, and the federal share had declined from 75 percent to 50 percent.
Over the years there have been several regional votes on light rail funding. Each time, Lake Oswego citizens have voted to support light rail, and have even been paying taxes to fund the line to Hillsboro, anticipating that eventually Lake Oswego's turn would come.
There is now a unique window of opportunity to fund and construct this line. If this is lost, the funds will be reallocated to other transit projects and other cities, and Lake Oswego will face many more years of planning uncertainty and growing congestion. And when rail eventually comes to Lake Oswego, as it eventually will, it will certainly cost far more.
Gerald Fox is a resident of Dunthorpe.