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Stop the streetcar, Foothills process

Our mayor(s), current and past, and the city council have had a 'vision' of a mini-Pearl District in our local floodplain; aka the Foothills. Or was it the property owners and their developer Williams/Dame and White (WDW) that had the vision?

Lake Oswego government hired WDW and funded a study costing over a million dollars to review the viability of the development of the Foothills area. The results of the study have been reviewed in an on-going basis with the Lake Oswego Citizens Advisory Committee, headed up by Matt Brown, an employee of WDW.

The guiding principles of the Foothills study committee originally had no mention of the streetcar. By November 2010 the concept of integration of a streetcar as a critical element was in the minutes of the meetings and now Matt Brown (of WDW), the chair of the committee, says, 'Without the streetcar, the project becomes very unviable from a financial standpoint.'

The development of our flood plain is a non-starter without a transportation plan to handle the additional traffic created. The developer and property owners aren't going to pay for the necessary infrastructure improvement. Discussions about developing the Foothills area date back to 2004 but it has only been within the last year or so that someone said, 'Wait, I've got it, the streetcar!' paid for and maintained with taxpayers dollars. The discussions that had faded into oblivion in 2005 came roaring back.

Do you feel the target on your back (and on your wallet)?

One thing is certain; the streetcar it is going to be very expensive. A parking structure will have to be built and now the proponents are talking about a sky bridge over Highway 43. Its whole length will run through a Zone A (the greatest level of) earthquake hazard area, making the seismic requirements incredibly expensive.

The Foothills project requires moving PGE substations, relocation of storm water and sewage systems, finding 50,000 cubic yards of fill to move the land above the floodplain and massive zoning changes.

In 2006, Mayor Judie Hammerstad called it (the West End Building) 'the opportunity of a lifetime' and said she hoped to turn the 88,872-square-foot building into a community center. Even before the city had signed the final paperwork, she said a community center could be a wonderful project to showcase Lake Oswego's centennial in 2010. While our great city is celebrating its centennial our White Elephant is showcasing what happens when 'visions' are political and not pragmatic.

In Judie Hammerstad's final State of the City address (January 2008), she said 'With the federal money that could be tapped for a streetcar along the Willamette shoreline, the city might only pay $5 million,' she said. 'The local share would be reduced to a pittance.' The current construction budget assumes $86 million from 'local sources.' No matter what percentage of that $86 million lands in our lap, it isn't going to a pittance.

Yogi Berra said it best - 'This is like déjà vu all over again.'

It is time to stop this foolishness. Contact Metro, Clackamas County, Multnomah County, the city of Portland and the city of Lake Oswego and tell them no!

Trey Chanter is a resident of Lake Oswego.


Editor's note

Brant Williams, the city's economic and capital development director, responds:

'The city would like to clarify information contained in this letter:

'The vision statement for Foothills, adopted by city council in June 2010, specifically includes the streetcar. The Foothills Vision Statement can be found at http://bit.ly/hLqKdc. A parking structure is currently included in the plans for both the Enhanced Bus and Streetcar alternatives for the Lake Oswego to Portland Transit Project. While the idea of a skybridge across State Street has been mentioned, it is not a part of either the Foothills or Transit project plans.'