Portland Streetcar Extension Plans Prompt Questions

Officials in Portland are keen to expand the city's streetcar system with a proposed $458 million extension project. But some questions about the project remain unanswered.
March 30, 2011, 11am PDT | Nate Berg
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Despite economic development successes related to previous streetcar lines, some worry that the investment in the extension won't pay off.

"Supporters say the line would spur redevelopment in Portland's Johns Landing neighborhood and Lake Oswego's Foothills District, where developer Homer Williams plans a small version of Pearl District-style housing and retail. The streetcar also would enhance Portland's national reputation for trendsetting transit.

Yet the project is unlike any in the United States, in both price and ambition, to link a big city and suburb by streetcar. As Portland and Lake Oswego leaders prepare to endorse the project, it remains steeped in unanswered questions: Does privileged Lake Oswego need a streetcar line to Portland? Should a publicly funded transit project be so closely tied to benefiting developers? Does the funding -- which includes the notion that an old trolley right of way purchased for about $2 million will be worth $97 million -- pencil out? Would the project's benefits be worth the price tag?"

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Published on Saturday, March 26, 2011 in The Oregonian
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