This article is mostly about the Streetcar, but is a good sign the OSC is moving forward...
City is eager to get Portland streetcar turned around
DJC Thursday, November 19, 2009
Planners of the Portland Streetcar Loop never wanted the streetcar to travel the wrong way on a one-way street near Portland State University.
But the temporary alignment along Fourth Avenue between Montgomery and Harrison streets was meant to be just that - temporary, according to Rick Gustafson, director of operations for the Portland Streetcar project.
The plan always had been for the tracks to cut through a site bounded by Southwest Montgomery and Harrison streets to the north and south, and Southwest Fourth and Fifth avenues to the east and west. But before this year, there was no official plan for a building on the site.
“When you’re putting a streetcar in the middle of a block, you need the building proposal,” Gustafson said. “Now that the configuration has been set for the Oregon Sustainability Center, there’s work being done to secure financial resources to build the real alignment.”
The city of Portland has submitted an application for a $2.55 million ConnectOregon III grant to help pay for the $4 million project to realign the streetcar track diagonally through the site of the future Oregon Sustainability Center, much like the track currently cuts through PSU’s urban plaza. The streetcar’s current single track would be replaced with a double track to allow two-way travel through the Oregon Sustainability Center site.
But besides providing a dramatic entrance to the center, the realignment will improve traffic flow in the area, according to Shoshanah Oppenheim of the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s streetcar project management team.
“Removing the tracks on Fourth and Montgomery will allow us to manage the flow of traffic for pedestrians, cars and trains better,” Oppenheim said. “There are conflict points with the contraflow of the streetcar there, as well as the moving of pedestrians around Harrison and Fourth Avenue.”
Traffic jams near a streetcar stop at the transit mall at Fifth Avenue and Montgomery Street are a frequent occurrence with the current streetcar alignment, Gustafson said. If a streetcar stops on the transit mall’s only lane of auto traffic, an increasing line of vehicles begins to form behind the idling streetcar.
“It’s a hazard because cars start to consider driving into the light-rail section to avoid the streetcar,” Gustafson said.
Oppenheim says the realignment project is in a good position to take a slice of the $100 million ConnectOregon III pie. The program will award grants to non-highway transportation projects that improve connections between the highway system and other modes of transportation, as well as projects that improve the flow of traffic and remove delays. The remaining cost of the project will be paid for with South Parks Blocks Urban Renewal Area tax increment financing allotted for the Oregon Sustainability Center.
The city’s application for a ConnectOregon III grant will be reviewed by the Oregon Department of Transportation in the first quarter of 2010. Final review is scheduled for June 2010 and a decision is expected to be made in August 2010.
Damin Tarlow of Gerding Edlen, who is working on the development of the Oregon Sustainability Center, says the new alignment can bring visitors from all over to the doorstep of Portland’s most sustainable building without ever having to enter a car.
“When someone flies in to PDX from around the world, they will be able to get from the airport to the Oregon Sustainability Center by MAX and streetcar,” Tarlow said. “All of the parts and pieces are coming together.”