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MY VIEW • Shorter line saves money, improves network
by:  JIM CLARK, One reader suggests that the proposed east-side streetcar line travel farther south to link with a shorter Portland-Milwaukie light rail line, while on the west side, light rail could connect with OHSU’s tram and medical facilities.

Your article 'OHSU lobbies for rail route' (April 29) said that the proposed Portland-to-Milwaukie light-rail extension sweeps backward so that it can serve the planned Oregon Health and Science University campus on the waterfront. Some might wonder whether the additional $35 million cost is justified.

One also could say that the line sweeps backward so that it can serve the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Is the added expense of doing that justified? Is there a better alternative to that?

As a former Brooklyn neighborhood resident and charter member of the Milwaukie-Portland Light Rail Project committee, I've seen many preferred light-rail alignments over the years.

The first, back in 1995, kept the line on McLoughlin Boulevard until it crossed the Willamette River around Center Street, well south of the Ross Island Bridge.

Many inner Southeast Portland residents - including myself - objected to this alignment because essentially it bypassed the east side in favor of 'big money,' propertied interests on the west side.

Political activism and the then-empty South Waterfront forced the preferred alignment to keep to the east side until it crossed the river near OMSI.

Since then, South Waterfront has been developed and the east-side streetcar has been proposed. I now wonder whether the original alignment crossing the river south of the Ross Island Bridge is superior.

To wit, the east-side streetcar is slated to join the Portland-Milwaukie light-rail extension and cross the river using the same bridge. If this bridge is located south of the Ross Island Bridge, the east-side streetcar would need to travel farther south through the inner east side than is proposed now, possibly even traveling down Brooklyn's 'mainstreet' - the underutilized Southeast Milwaukie Avenue.

With this, inner east-side residents could have rail access to all of the inner east-side business district (including OMSI) as well as access to the light-rail line.

On the west side, light rail could link with the OHSU tram and existing South Waterfront OHSU medical facility, in addition to the planned OHSU campus, while also giving the transportation-starved South Waterfront residents and businesses much greater access to light rail.

Also, the streetcar could exit the light-rail bridge and hook up to the southern extension of the South Waterfront streetcar line - completing the streetcar loop - and eventually tying into the planned Lake Oswego streetcar.

Tying up all the loose ends in this way greatly enhances the entire transportation network.

Could it be that the shortened light-rail line as described above saves enough money to more than pay for the extra cost of the lengthened east-side streetcar line, making the above enhancements less expensive than the light-rail alignment and east-side streetcar that is now officially proposed?

Gary Dye is an engineering supervisor with a local public utility and commutes daily into downtown Portland. He lives in outer Southeast Portland with his wife and two children.