|Citizens agree on future streetcar use
THE MID-COUNTY MEMO
Putting aside weeks of debate, a citizen working group in late November unanimously endorsed four potential streetcar routes as candidates for further study under the Streetcar System Plan process.
The vote followed a series of meetings over the course of three months where streetcar supporters squared off against critics, the latter mostly from the Mill Park neighborhood. Out of concern that the final session would degenerate into a shouting match, the group invited Russell Neighborhood Association Chair Bonny McKnight, who hadnt previously been involved in the debate, to conduct the meeting.
We scheduled two hours for the meeting, but after an hour no one had anything left to say, so we adjourned, McKnight said.
The four routes were:
Northeast and Southeast 82nd Avenue
Northeast and Southeast 122nd Avenue, between Southeast Foster Road and Halsey Street
The Gateway Loop, with cars traveling between Portland Adventist Medical Center and the Gateway Transit Center via Northeast and Southeast 99th and 102nd avenues
The Lents Town Center, or Southeast Foster Road between 50th and 122nd avenues
The relatively tranquil session and unanimous vote were deceptive. Mill Park representatives made clear that agreeing to further study the proposed routes did not constitute an endorsement of a streetcar there; they were adamantly against a study of routes going through their neighborhood. Moreover, the group attached a set of arguments for and against each of the routes named. McKnight pointed out that these show a great lack of unanimity.
To some extent, the arguments showed the philosophical differences of both sides. Gateway supporters see the streetcar as one way to jump-start development in an area designated for it; Powellhurst-Gilbert residents hope it could bring mixed-use development with retail services currently lacking in their neighborhood. Mill Park residents fear streetcars for the same reason; they see dense development as a distinct negative, altering the character of the neighborhood and putting more pressure on already overcrowded schools. Because streetcars share travel lanes with cars, supporters see them as a form of traffic calming that could slow down traffic and make pedestrians safer; critics see the streetcars as contributing to congestion.
Other arguments were as follows:
Northeast and Southeast 122nd Avenue
Pro: It could connect higher-density development in the south to MAX. It could help focus development on the corridor, easing infill development pressure on adjacent neighborhoods. It could unite Mid-county with the rest of the city. The right of way is wide enough to handle the streetcar and its stations without expansion.
Con: The current zoning is unbalanced and inadequate. There is a lack of street connectivity to provide easy access to the streetcar. Some adjacent neighborhoods dont support it.
Pro: It connects many activities including medical centers, shopping centers and schools. It provides service to senior housing. The area is already zoned for intense development. It could be an incentive to improve the inadequate street connectivity and infrastructure between Northeast 102nd Avenue and the I-205 freeway. It could connect to other transit.
Con: It has limited public support. It is a short line that duplicates other transit, such as MAX Light Rail.
Northeast and Southeast 82nd Avenue
Pro: It serves major destinations such as Montavilla Community Center and Portland Community College; the latter scheduled to expand. The area has huge development potential and big business support. It could unite many neighborhoods and help the Southeast 72nd Avenue bus line by eliminating on-and-off stops. It is the major north-south corridor east of the river; it has built-in ridership and would provide transit service for students and low-income people.
Con: It is a state highway, so development of the line would be complicated. It has a narrow right of way that might make it hard to accommodate streetcar infrastructure. Prostitution is an issue. It reinforces the separation between east Portland and the rest of the city. It is parallel to the new MAX Green Line, and therefore redundant.
Lents Town Center
Pro: It could help development in an urban renewal district. It could connect to other potential routes, such as Southeast 122nd and Hawthorne. It could help overcome the barrier that the I-205 freeway creates in the district. There is potential for a new baseball park. It could improve development and restore an urban environment. It could bring people to the town center. It connects to the Green Line.
Con: There is a flood plain on the south side of Southeast Foster between 99th and 122nd that would make streetcar-related development difficult; Foster is narrow.
The group also considered, but did not recommend for further study, routes on Southeast Stark and Washington streets between 82nd and 122nd avenues, Northeast and Southeast 148th Avenue between Southeast Powell and Northeast Sandy boulevards, and Southeast Powell Boulevard between 50th and 122nd avenues.
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