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Metro moving on LO streetcar project

Metro councilors have approved going ahead with an environmental impact study of a Portland to Lake Oswego streetcar.

But first, Metro wants to know what local residents would like to see in the study. Metro will schedule a public meeting in January in Lake Oswego to discuss the scope of the EIS. A time and place have not been announced.

The EIS will look at running the streetcar into Lake Oswego, ending either at Albertson's on South State Street or Safeway on A Avenue.

Other options to be studied are alignments through Johns Landing - either along Macadam Avenue or along the Willamette Shore Line railroad right of way.

A terminus could be at Southwest Nevada Street in Johns Landing - if Metro decides not to take the streetcar all the way into Lake Oswego. Nevada Street might also be a temporary terminus, if the project is done in phases, according to Metro spokesperson Karen Withrow.

In addition, the EIS will look into skipping the streetcar and going with enhanced bus service instead.

The EIS would likely not begin until late 2008 or early 2009, as Metro awaits funding for it. Once it begins, it should take a year to 18 months, Withrow said.

Lake Oswego Mayor Judie Hammerstad said she would like to see the alignment of the streetcar follow the current alignment of the Willamette Shore Line Railroad.

Because that alignment is owned already by a consortium of local governments, it would mean more federal matching dollars for the project. The federal matching funds could be as much as $112 million, going toward a total project cost of as much as $215 million.

Hammerstad said that alignment is also safer and quicker for passengers, compared with running the streetcar along Macadam through Johns Landing. Running along Macadam, she said, means the streetcars would be slowed in traffic.

'It would lose six minutes in travel time, which is pretty significant,' she said.

But she added that the Macadam alignment is likely more popular with Johns Landing residents because Macadam is the area's major arterial and easy to access.

Ending the streetcar in Johns Landing on Nevada Street may seem more favorable that running it into Lake Oswego, from the perspective of some residents of Dunthorpe.

'There is a lot of concern by the folks in Dunthorpe,' said Withrow.

A streetcar would cut through the neighborhood's eastern edge, using the Willamette Shore Line railroad right of way.

Hammerstad said she would also prefer to see the streetcar terminus at Albertson's. She said the part of the scope of the EIS will be to study the effect each potential route and terminus will have on re-development of areas near the streetcar.

Withrow said the EIS will study such issues as the economic impact of the streetcar or enhanced bus service on land use near the alignments.

It will also study impacts to neighborhood character, visual and aesthetic environment, ecosystems, and noise and vibration impacts.

In addition, the EIS will include a financial analysis and transportation impacts.