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Is a streetcar in the future for Lake Oswego?

Several options mulled to get folks up and down Highway 43

When evening rush hour hits, Elizabeth Burke sits it out.

Rather than endure southbound Highway 43 traffic in a crowded bus, she has a cup of tea in downtown Portland.

'I try to avoid the rush hour,' the Lake Oswegan said. 'It's terribly bad.'

As a resident at the Oswego Pointe condos, Burke said she would be a regular commuter if Metro builds the Portland to Lake Oswego streetcar.

The streetcar would run along the current alignment of the Willamette Shore Trolley - an alignment owned by Metro and a consortium of cities for the last 20 years.

Later this month, the Lake Oswego Project Advisory Committee (LOPAC) will make a recommendation for a preferred alternative. Other alternatives include doing nothing or building bus rapid transit, which include queue jumps at strategic intersections.

A recent Metro study showed that the streetcar option could handle significantly more people than the other two. About 10,900 riders would take the streetcar each day, compared with 8,700 on bus rapid transit and 6,780 under the no-build option.

Those are estimates for the year 2025.

At last week's Metro-sponsored open house in Lake Oswego, which featured a slide show and fliers depicting bus rapid transit and streetcar renderings, locals turned out to see what the future might hold for easing congestion in and out of Lake Oswego.

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Packwood of Oregon said he was interested in the streetcar option, but wondered whether riders would opt to take it to Portland State University, knowing they still had a short commute to get to their offices.

'How many people would drive to a terminus (in Lake Oswego), get out of their cars and ride the train?' he said. He also questioned how much housing development the city would allow near the tracks.

Packwood lives in Dunthorpe, a neighborhood that would feel the impact of a streetcar.

While the trolley runs a few times a day between spring and fall, the streetcar could run as often as every seven minutes, according to Dave Reinhart, a vice chair of LOPAC and a property owner along Southwest Fielding Road.

'I represent folks in unincorporated areas between Lake Oswego and Portland and in those areas there is tremendous concern about having the streetcar go through and destroying the neighborhood character,' said Reinhart.

He said people in Dunthorpe object to the frequency of the trains.

'There's a lot of concern expressed to me by the neighbors about that,' he said.

But Reinhart said the larger question is whether $233 million to build the streetcar line and adjacent pedestrian and bike trail is a good investment.

Without the trail, the streetcar would cost about $149 million.

'What else could we be spending the money on?' he said. 'Is this the best use?'

From a tourist standpoint, the streetcar could be a boon to local businesses, according to Lake Oswego Chamber of Com-merce CEO Jerry Wheeler Sr.

While the chamber has not taken a position on its preferred alternative, Wheeler said the streetcar seems to address most problems.

'There is no easy solution,' he said. 'Highway 43 is going to be a nightmare, if it isn't already.'

Bringing the trolley up A Avenue, he said, 'on the surface looks like a good idea.'

For Burke, the streetcar would be ideal.

'I would love the streetcar to come out this way,' said Burke, who regularly commutes to PSU. 'It's comfortable, smooth and has a dedicated right-of-way.'

The next LOPAC meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center, 505 G Ave.