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Mass transit options mulled for Lake Oswego, West Linn

Metro to hold two open houses
by: Newlands and Company, This artist’s rendition of a streetcar running along A Avenue and First Street in Lake Oswego is one option Metro is considering.

As decision time draws closer, Metro officials want to know where Lake Oswegans and West Linn residents stand on the issue of improving mass transit from Portland to Lake Oswego.

Two open houses are scheduled next week to discuss whether a streetcar, bus rapid transit or 'no-build' is the preferred option for helping alleviate traffic along Highway 43.

The first open house will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the U.S. Bank building, 120 N. State St., Lake Oswego. Another will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. next Thursday at David Evans and Associates, 2100 S.W. River Parkway, Portland.

Brian Newman, who co-chairs the Lake Oswego to Portland Transit Alternative Analysis Committee, said recent ridership numbers indicate that a streetcar would move the most people each day. Newman, Lake Oswego, is also a Metro councilor whose district includes most of urban Clackamas County.

A Metro study concluded that the streetcar would accommodate about 10,900 rides a day in 2025. Per-day estimates for bus rapid transit are 8,700, and if nothing is done the bus ridership would be 6,780.

Travel times would favor the streetcar, which would take about 24 minutes between Lake Oswego and Portland State University, in downtown Portland, in 2025, according to the study. Bus rapid transit would provide a 33-minute trip and regular buses would take 42 minutes. An auto trip in 2025 would take an estimated 28 minutes.

The costs for a streetcar, in today's dollars, would be about $130 million to $149 million, according to Newman. The cost would be $199 million to $233 million, if the streetcar were combined with a paved trail for cyclists and pedestrians.

The capital costs of bus rapid transit would be $50 million, or $57 million with a trail along the existing Willamette River shoreline right of way. That option would include 'que-jump lanes' at major intersections, so buses could speed ahead of other vehicles.

Construction could begin in 2011 and be completed by 2014. The Willamette Shore Trolley currently uses the rail line, but it would cease to operate if the streetcar is used. The streetcar option could trigger three million square feet of development and re-development in the Lake Oswego and Johns Landing areas, based on current zoning, according to Metro.

Newman said officials do not yet have a finance plan, but he said much of the project would be funded with federal grant program dollars.

In the late 1980s, a consortium of local governments purchased the rail right of way, with the intention of one day using it for transit. The purchase price was about $3 million, and Newman said that has soared in value to $50 million.

The consortium's ownership of the rail right of way would be used as part of the local funding match.

Because the Oregon State Department of Transportation will not allow widening of Highway 43, Newman said traffic along the narrow corridor will likely get worse.

'We know that traffic will get worse as Lake Oswego and West Linn areas grow,' he said.

The Portland Transit Alternative Analysis Committee must make a formal recommendation to Metro for the locally preferred alternative in September