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Streetcar planning stays on a roll

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The Portland Office of Transportation will hold five citywide meetings in April to gauge public interest in potentially creating new streetcar lines in different parts of the community.

The long-term 'streetcar system plan' would create a citywide network of corridors in certain areas, as well as an implementation strategy.

Streetcar supporters say there's a growing need for alternative transportation infrastructure, considering Metro's growth projections of 300,000 new residents in the city and 1 million new residents in the region by 2030.

'The idea is that you have a light-rail system which links the growth centers … then these streetcar corridors are a link between those centers,' said Emily Lieb, a PDOT staffer helping coordinate the program.

'Because streetcars represent a permanent infrastructure, it's a lot about the development that's going to happen in that area. You're helping to shape the growth in the city, rather than just let it happen however it would on its own.'

In October, PDOT staff and a 15-member citizen advisory committee began identifying several potential corridors throughout the city, along with the help of the Bureau of Planning, Portland Development Commission, Metro, TriMet, the Oregon Department of Transportation and a team of consultants.

A screening process has narrowed a potential 210 miles of corridor to 70 to 80 miles, a number that could go up or down depending on public interest, said Patrick Sweeney, a senior transit planner.

PDOT hopes to draft a plan by June. Funding will be part of the implementation plan, with federal-local matches from the Federal Transportation Administration and other options to be considered.

On a separate track, streetcar pioneer U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., is trying to obtain federal funding for a proposed 3.3-mile extension of the west-side streetcar system from the Pearl District across the Broadway Bridge.

Eventually, the hope is to extend the route south on the east side as part of the Portland-Milwaukie light-rail project.

After the upcoming round of public workshops, PDOT will launch a two-month study of streetcar corridors in the communities that have expressed interest.

The meetings are scheduled for April 3 at the Cleveland High School library, 3400 S.E. 26th Ave.; April 9 at the St. Johns Community Center Auditorium, 8427 N. Central St.; April 14 at Lincoln High School, Room 169, 1600 S.W. Salmon St.; and April 15 at the East Portland Community Center, Classroom 1, 740 S.E. 106th Ave. All meetings are set for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

For information, see www.portlandonline.com/transportation/index.cfm?c=46134.

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