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Streetcar: A Foothills business owners thoughts

First off, why has the Lake Oswego Review not acknowledged The Oregonian Editorial Review Board's (editorial) dated Dec. 26, 2011, to 'Pull the plug on the LO Streetcar?' In reading the online responses to the (editorial), there are at least 88 responses all in agreement to 'pull the plug' and wash this bad idea down the drain (and) three or so that are in favor of the streetcar. It is very interesting reading, I suggest you take the time to read it at www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2011/12/pull_the_plug_on_the_lake_oswe.html .

As a business owner in the Foothills basin, I have been following the streetcar debate since the first discussions over 10 years ago. Since I am a tenant and live outside Lake Oswego, I have not been involved in meetings because I do not vote or directly pay property taxes in Lake Oswego. But, after more than a decade visiting with fellow business owners in the Foothills basin and discussing it regularly with my customers, I have received the same response. I do not recall that even one of my customers has indicated they are in favor of the streetcar. The only businesses I know that are in favor, of course, are the property owners that stand to make much more on their property sale than the value of their business.

Of course I am biased against the streetcar; it will force me to relocate my business. There is very little land zoned for auto or boat repair; and what may be available is in the 'rent is too damned high district.'

The city has never contacted tenants in the area indicating there is any help for tenants to relocate their businesses in the event of moving forward with the streetcar plan. There are several automotive and boat repair businesses located here in the Foothills basin servicing many thousands of Lake Oswego residents' vehicles and boats. We provide a very valuable service to our community, especially for those who live on the north end of town and work downtown.

Many of my customers use the bus to get to downtown Portland when we are servicing their vehicles. We have free bus passes here for them, it works great. How about we save the country, counties and our cities about a billion dollars ($450 million projected local costs then matched by the federal government - that has no money) by scrapping this boondoggle? And regards to arguments that it will never cost less to build a streetcar - how's that underwater West End Building financing coming?

William Erickson owns Erickson's Automotive on Foothills Road in Lake Oswego.

Editor's note: A couple points here for Mr. Erickson:

1) First of all, as noted in our story on page A1, there no longer are enough members of the Lake Oswego City Council who support the streetcar project to allow it to go forward at this time. Councilor Bill Tierney's announcement Tuesday evening that he could no longer support the streetcar because of financial concerns throws into question whether or not the project can proceed.

2) As a general practice, competing newspapers don't generally 'acknowledge' each others' content, especially when an editorial is concerned. That is the case here.

3) The billion dollar estimate Mr. Erickson suggests for the streetcar costs ($450 million local plus federal match) is much higher than project officials were anticipating - especially since the projected costs include the federal support as opposed to that being a match.

As we reported last month: 'Earlier cost estimates pegged the streetcar's costs at about $347 million in 2010 dollars or $458 million in 2017, when the line was projected to open.

'Now, officials believe the project could actually cost about $199 million in today's dollars. However, that figure doesn't include a 400-space park-and-ride lot in Lake Oswego; with the park-and-ride facility included, the project total is now estimated at about $208 million.

'The new numbers stem from revisions to the streetcar line's route and project scope. Overall, the 'Refined alignment is straighter, shorter and has fewer impacts to be mitigated,' the report states. It also reduces the number of new streetcars and eliminates a new maintenance and storage facility.

'But the new numbers don't count the value of the Willamete Shore Line right of way, which could represent a large portion of the public's share in paying for the project. Many jurisdictions, including the federal government, are expected to contribute.'



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