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East side streetcar service begins

American-made streetcar makes first official trip


by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - A new street car made by United Streetcar of Clackamas will be part of the new eastside Portland streetcar line that opened Saturday morning.Streetcar service on Portland's east side officially began just after 11 a.m. Saturday with the departure of the first American-made streetcar in 60 years from a station just behind the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

The streetcar carried Mayor Sam Adams, other elected officials and transportation planners through the city's inner east side and over the Broadway Bridge, where it connected to the existing west side Portland Streetcar line.

Before the departure, Adams and other officials extolled the virtue of streetcar service in a series of speeches delivered before hundreds of supporters at the plaza in front of OMSI. Adams, Portland-area Congressman Earl Blumenauer and others predicted the east side line would eventually inspire billions of dollars in redevelopment projects along it.

"Wherever streetcar goes, investments in neighborhoods and jobs follows," Adams said.

Portland development Commission Executive Director Patrick Quinton said that over $400 million in new east side projects were already under way, including a $250 million mixed-use development along the line in the Lloyd District.

The $148 million east side extension will eventually cross over the transit bridge under construction in the Willamette River to South Waterfront. There it will connect to the southern end of the west side line, completing a streetcar loop around the city originally envisioned by the City Council in the Central City Plan approved in 1988.

The bridge is being built as part of TriMet's $1.49 billion Portland-to-Milwaukie Light Rail Line. In addition to MAX trains and streetcars, it will also carry bicyclists and pedestrians over the river.

OMSI President Nancy Stueber said the transit connections would bring more visitors to her museum and other institutions in the area, including the Oregon Rail Heritage Center that formally opened at noon on Saturday. It houses three historic city-owned locomotives. Planning is already underway to redeveloped approximately 18 acres OMSI owns where the MAX and streetcar lines intersect.

The American-made streetcar was built by United Streetcar in Clackamas County. They are building six other streetcars for the city, too. The first are expected to be delivered before the end of the year. Their arrival was delayed by complications encountered by the company that is reviving the American streetcar industry.

The east side extension is 3.3 miles long. It nearly doubles the length of the Portland Steetcar system. The federal government paid half the construction cost. Other funds came from the city, the state, Metro and private property owners served by the extension.