by Merry Mackinnon, The Bee, May 6, 2009
Construction on the long awaited streetcar line south from the Rose Quarter down to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) and back downtown, serving inner East Portland, will likely begin soon — thanks to money targeted for Oregon in the federal government’s recently-passed spending bill.
Appropriations, sometimes called “earmarks”, for Oregon in the 2009 federal bill amount to $280 million, and that includes $75 million for construction of Portland’s 3.3 mile Streetcar Loop.
The Streetcar Loop is a $127 million project. Much of the remaining funding has already been secured through local sources, including from the state of Oregon and the Portland Development Commission, according to Portland Streetcar Inc. Executive Director Rick Gustafson.
When completed, the new Streetcar Loop will cross the Broadway Bridge from the Pearl District, linking the existing west-side streetcar line to Portland’s eastside Lloyd District, south through Central Eastside via Seventh Avenue and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, reaching OMSI.
It will then retrace its route up Grand, but when the new Milwaukie MAX light rail bridge is completed near OMSI, it will instead continue via the South Waterfront District to downtown. The planned new bridge between the Ross Island and Hawthorne Bridges which will also carry buses, bicyclists, and pedestrian, but not regular auto traffic.
The $75 million will fund more than half of the remaining money needed to go forward with the project, says Gustafson.
The projected number of riders on the new Streetcar Loop is 3.5 million, projected to reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled in Portland by 28 million miles per year, according to TriMet, a partner in the Streetcar Loop.
Streetcar advocates were originally counting on the federal government to fund the Streetcar Loop either through its normal fiscal budget or through the federal stimulus package. Now, the stimulus package is no longer determining the Streetcar Loop’s fate.
“This solves our problem, and frees up money for other projects,” Gustafson says. Gustafson says the Streetcar Loop’s final engineering drawings are 75 percent complete.
The Streetcar Loop, using the Broadway Bridge for travel to and from downtown, is projected to open for riders by fall of 2011.
“We’re ready,” Gustafson says.