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Streetcar panel takes a key step forward

The Project Steering Committee for the Portland to Lake Oswego streetcar this week took an important step toward bringing the project to life.

The steering committee recommended going forward with a draft environmental impact statement. The draft EIS, which will begin next year, will take about a year to complete, and be followed by a final EIS, requiring another six months.

The steering committee is comprised of officials from Clackamas and Multnomah counties, cities of Portland and Lake Oswego as well as TriMet, Oregon Department of Transportation, Metro, Portland Streetcar Inc., and Dave Jorling, chair of Lake Oswego to Portland Project Advisory Committee.

Lake Oswego Mayor Judi Hammerstad, a member, wants the EIS to encompass several options: Running the streetcar from downtown Portland to Lake Oswego along the Willamette Shore Line right-of-way alignment, running partly along Southwest Macadam Avenue through Johns Landing, and providing enhanced bus service rather than a streetcar.

The committee said the streetcar would have the highest ridership of all the transit alternatives. It also concluded that the streetcar would have faster auto times between downtown Portland and Lake Oswego.

'Faster time and higher reliability is gained through operation of (a) streetcar in exclusive right-of-way on the Willamette Shore Line,' the committee's report said.

The streetcar would have the lowest operating and maintenance costs of any alternative, it said. Additionally, it could spur 3.3 million square feet of transit- oriented development, according to the committee.

The committee said the streetcar would act as an extension of the existing streetcar between Northwest 23rd Avenue and South Waterfront.

The Federal Transit Administration would give up to $112.5 million in federal funds for the project, if it follows the Willamette Shore Line alignment.

The committee ruled out including bus rapid transit as part of the EIS. Longer queue jump lanes and the fact that buses can get stuck in traffic with cars and trucks also were listed as reasons not to further study bus rapid transit.

But the committee said the EIS should study enhanced bus, because it would not have the 'property impacts' of bus rapid transit. Enhanced bus would have bus pullouts where possible and better shelters. Studying enhanced bus would also give Metro a 'base case' for comparison to streetcar alternatives.

In the Macadam Avenue alignment scenario, the streetcar would join Macadam on Southwest Bancroft Street and run south to Southwest Nevada Street.

The committee eliminated Highway 43 south of Johns Landing from consideration for the streetcar alignment because of safety and operational reasons. This, the committee said, makes the 'Willamette Shore Line alignment the only option in this segment (Johns Landing to Lake Oswego) of the corridor.'

One advantage of running the streetcar along that portion of Macadam Avenue is that it would leverage 2.2 million square feet of new development in Johns Landing, the committee said.

Lastly, the committee said ending the streetcar at the Albertson's or Safeway in Lake Oswego should be studied.

The committee also wants the EIS to encompass the impacts of running a trail along the Portland to Lake Oswego corridor.

'The trail design should change and adapt to constraints in the corridor,' the committee said.

The draft and final EIS will cost about $5 million.

After the final EIS is complete, Metro will select one of the alternatives.