Architect Weighs in on Transit Mall

Over at Portland Architecture, architect Rick Potestio weighs in on the Urban Design aspects of the Transit Mall project.

His conclusion: a subway is the best answer. Short of that, put both north- and south-bound trains on Sixth Ave, with a few key blocks underground.

And he mentions bike culture in Amsterdam…

35 responses to “Architect Weighs in on Transit Mall”

  1. Potestio’s criticism of the Mall states that the Pioneer Courthouse will be “lost behind a moving wall of trains and TV personality portraits.” I think this criticism of “LRT blight” is valid elsewhere, too. Perhaps we should be looking at a new generation of transit solutions. After all LRT has been around for thirty years or more. Some big cities have had light rail lines much more heavily used than Portland’s. Will Portland rise to the same category? Perhaps yes, but by then we should have come up with better solutions.

    If I may make a very general observation:
    The “liberals’ in this discussion see a flaw and then ask “How can this be improved?” or “What could we do better? or “I have a really great plan…..” The “conservatives” see heavy subsidies for the vision of some, but do not feel that the vision fits their interests. They also see rising taxes, charges and fees constantly whittling away their freedom (from taxes, mainly.)

    There must be a middle ground.

    Planning advocates should not merely repond to each new problem as it arises. That is like trying to double the size of your house by adding one room at a time–it ends in a really bad design! Yet if there were no planning at all I think we would have massive frustration–very much like Seattle’s traffic woes.

    So instead of finding one solution per problem, let’s look for solutions that solve two or three problems at once. The tradeoff’s in cost v. benefits should always be carefully analyzed–but I am very skeptical of these well paid consultants….! The people who are directly affected are the end-users and will finally bear both the costs of implementing solutions or of enduring neglected problems. In any Transportation Summit (as per Sam Adams’ goal) I hope we can be free of commmercial, vested interests–looking for short term profit–but observant of both individual and enterprise needs.

  2. Like most architects, Mr Potestio, doesn’t pay the bills. But what is so alluring about a subway? the blank concrete walls?, the enclosed space?, the heightened noise? I, like most Portlanders, like standing on a street level platform in the occasional sunshine waiting for MAX. And lots of us do this…close to 100K times a day someone takes a ride on MAX, more than any other system constructed since 1980.
    Is Morrison/Yamhill a failure? It has MAX, cars, peds, bikes, and above 10th Avenue a few buses.
    The biggest problem with MAX trains is they are so quiet.
    With all due respect to Potestio, Crandell and Buhl, I think all this second guessing is a tempest in the barn after the horse is out of the teapot! Let’s move on…how do we get MAX to Vancouver?

  3. The reference to a “Master Plan” is a key point in the interview. Several readers have mentioned this concept before and it seems like a great idea, if not a neccessity for a well-planned city.

    And a Master Plan would raise questions, such as: why build a surface Mall alignment now?

    It seems like everyone agrees that a subway thru the Core is the optimal solution. Why not plan on that and save $ until the time is ripe for building that vision?

    In the meantime we can expand the Streetcar system and work on lessining the detrimental impacts of Measure 37.

    As Ron states above, why not attempt to redefine PDX’s transport? Why stay focused on outdated models?

    Instead we should (and could!!) be breaking new ground and reinventing the American city. Now more than ever.

  4. I don’t agree a subway through the core is the solution–many people won’t use it downtown. It’s too much hassle to go belowground for just a few blocks, and if you’re unfamiliar with the area IMO you are less likely to venture down there. Then there is the issue of maintenance, which is much costlier than a surface design, and accessibility under ADA.

  5. I’m not particularly upset that this architect wishes to propose an alternative, but from an operations perspective his proposal would be sub-optimal.

    With trains exclusively on 6th, all transfers to bus would necessitate a walk to 5th. Now, a one or two block walk is required for most transfers anyway, but now you’d be walking to somewhere you cannot see immediately. It’s counter-intuitive and would require much signage.

    Secondly, buses being grouped together bi-directionally on 5th would require FOUR LANES for current skip-stop style operations (ie, faster than otherwise) to continue. A number of people are upset about extending the auto-lane long the entire mall (I am neutral). Well, that’s 3 lanes total. Under his plan, we’d have to seriously cut back bus service or go to four lanes.

    And where would the cars go under his proposal? They wouldn’t go on 6th because he does not propose a special tunnel for them under his extended Pioneer Courthouse Square. They shouldn’t go on 5th with buses running bidirectionally. So his plan basically does away with any notion of a through auto/bike lane.

    Well, if you’re going to do away with the auto/bike lane as a given, then why not go back to the original “Concept A” and run light rail on 5th and 6th in a perfectly straight line with left-side boarding?

    His main objection to light rail on the mall seems to be that the trains would be “rolling billboards”. Well, I bet you could replace TriMet’s advertising revenues for far less $$$ than the cost of constructing a 5 block subway near the courthouse… just replace the revenue and ban advertising from train exteriors.

    There are things about the plan I’m not happy about, but at least I go to the meetings and read the materials and try to understand what the trade-offs are before spouting off proposals.


    – Bob R.

  6. I agree Joe. A subway solution in the core area is a non-starter. An inconvenient way to get around downtown, way way too costly, AND the construction would essentially shut down most businesses along it’s route for a long period of time.

    HEY! How about a series of trams from several points on the Eastside into Pioneer Square PLUS along Hwy26 and over Sylvan hill into the downtown mall? I hear you can build them for about $15 million a piece! Fewer buses and trains going all the way into downtown!

  7. re plans…the 1972 Downtown Plan spawned the Mall and envisioned lightrail eventually being there along with the buses.
    This plan was updated in the late 80’s in an expanded Central City Plan….with the transit system core on 5/6th Avenues, including LRT. It included the notion of a local circulator, realized as Portland Streetcar.
    Maybe its time for another plan, but meanwhile we have the Green Line to build and the Yellow Line extension to Milwaukie to fund.
    A subway will come in a generation or two, and the surface MAX lines will become great additions to the Streetcar network.
    In the meantime hop Lufthansa to Frankfort/Main and check our the UBahn…its just a MAX system (7 lines) with three subways through the inner city. Don’t confuse it with the SBahn…commuter rail that is also in its own subway! But note the density that makes all this work. We are not there yet.
    And while you are there stroll along the Main River, where BOTH sides have parks, greenspaces and museums. George and Ron need to get focused back on removing I-5 from the eastbank of the Willamette. That’s what Ernie Bonner would have wanted us to do.

  8. The way I read the posting, Potestio is advocating for a subway alignment for MAX in order to speed up the travel time for cross-region ridership, not as a means of getting around downtown, as some posters here are suggesting. For that, he proposes beefing up the streetcar system.

    I think there’s merit to that idea. MAX is painful to ride through downtown. Right now, it’s being asked to serve a two-fold purpose: High speed express to downtown, then a local train, stopping every two blocks. In a perfect situation, MAX would make only three or four stops between the Willamette and I-405, then leave it up to the streetcar or walking for the last few blocks of the trip.

    A master plan that really looks at these ideas and determines whether or not they will work and what is viable is a useful first step.

    His secondary proposal, putting the trains on one street seems undoable, for a variety of reasons well-stated here. Plus, that trackage we’re laying on the mall will still be usable as part of the streetcar system.

  9. I read this post this morning but did not have time to respond. I see Bob R. has responded touching all the points that I would have. In other words, I agree with him. I also agree with Mr. Kaempff.

    Regarding the “rolling billboard” issue: I believe that the MAX Type 3 (i.e. the “300 series” cars) that are in the new paint scheme do not have external advertising, and that any of the type 1 and type 2 cars to receive this paint scheme will not have it either. (I even heard a rumor that a specific point was made with the new paint scheme to prevent the use of external advertising, though I cannot determine the veracity of this statement.)

  10. Regarding what Dan said about MAX being very slow downtown, I generally agree.

    One thing I like about the current Mall-alignment plan is that MAX stations will be every 4 or 5 blocks through the core of downtown, rather than every 2 or 3 as they are on the east-west alignment.

    The low speed limits downtown (which are a fact of life of a small-block surface, I’m not advocating raising them) are part of the reason for slow movement, but the big thing slowing MAX down is the total number of stops in close proximity. Once you are moving with the traffic light timing, you keep moving, but ever time you stop, you must wait a minimum of one cycle and risk waiting one additional cycle if the train is delayed for any reason.

    On the current east-west alignment, there are 3 stations that I would eliminate or combine, which could save up to 3 minutes each way between Lloyd Center and Goose Hollow. I’ve asked TriMet for some station-by-station boarding counts, which I will review before really advocating for this idea.

    – Bob R.

  11. Putting light rail on the transit mall will degrade public transit. Light rail is Portland’s regional high capacity system and it currently suffers from slow downtown street operation. Adding another slow downtown street operation will further diminish its effectiveness as a regional system.

    Having long trains stopping every quarter mile is not an effective way to provide convenient distributor service to the downtown core.

    An electric trolleybus shuttle system connecting PSU and the Pearl District, making frequent stops along the mall, would be more economical and user friendly.

    Trolleybuses could also make the mall a quieter place in the future.

    If the existing bus fleet is gradually replaced with hybrids fitted with auxiliary trolley poles, the overhead wires could power them while they are operating on the mall.

  12. Jim–how does it degrade public transit as a regional system, when while it’s downtown it performs as a city core people mover? If it were degrading public transit, I would expect fewer people to use it, not more as we have now.

    I guess I don’t understand the fuss about downtown speeds. It’s faster than walking, I can tell you that. If you stand at the Yamhill station and look up the street, as long as you can see the train coming, it’s worth standing at the platform until it arrives if you’re going even just as far as Skidmore, two stops away.

  13. OK, so I know that a lot of people here seem to think that there is no regional plan for rail. Please take a look at the following map:

    This appears, to me at least, to be a plan for expansion for the regional light rail, commuter rail and high speed rail systems.

    It seems to show that the light rail system, as such, will become “built-out” with the completion of a Barbur line to Tigard and points slightly beyond, the Vancouver extension, and a Milwaukie line terminating in Oregon City/West Linn.

    Interestingly, it seems to show the potential for the Hwy 224-to-Clackamas TC gap being filled by a high speed rail alignment. Would high speed rail stop more than once in the Portland region? If so, would it stop near Clackamas TC after stopping first in Oregon City (as the latter city’s boosters have long proposed)?

    With regards to commuter rail: It shows the potential for future commuter rail to Newberg, but not McMinnville. I would really like to see a McMinnville-to-downtown-Portland commuter rail line! Or, at least a line that went into Beaverton TC, where people could transfer to Westside LRT to get the rest of the way. This map shows what appears to be a planned Tualatin junction of trains from Sherwood (and Newberg/McMinnville) crossing the path of trains from Wilsonville, where trains could go either north into Beaverton TC, or northeast, across the river at Lake Oswego, through Milwaukie and north into… central Portland someplace along the eastside (along the existing tracks).

    This map *does* show a “Potential Neighbor City Transit Link” arrow pointing at St. Helens (the city, not the mountain), but it doesn’t have those cute little dashey lines heading in that direction. Perhaps that’s an area left for future planning?

    On the other hand, it does show the dashey future commuter rail lines heading to Troutdale, but without the “Potential Neighbor City Transit Link” that I would like to see indicating the potential for a link from there to the further-out Gorge cities of Hood River, and possibly also The Dalles (where, according to this article, Google will be building a new location).

    So, here’s the plan. Any comments on it? Obviously, aside from the Lake Oswego extension that we know about, it doesn’t show any other future streetcar line expansions. I believe streetcar line expansions are probably left up to Tri-Met and the City of Portland to plan, since they’re not so regional in nature. Anything else this document overlooks?


  14. Everyone agrees that MAX is slow through downtown.
    Station frequency is part of the problem on the existing crosss Mall alignment. Yet, having more stops means more opportunities for boarding/deboarding, hence fewer riders board and deboard at each stop which increases the chance for trains to keep up with the traffic signals. Having fewer stops might help but maybe not.
    It would be useful to know the % of trips that are through trips. Who cares if it takes 20 minutes to get from Goose Hollow to Lloyd Center if you only go as far as Pioneer Courthouse Sq.
    There is a subway out there in our future, but I don’t think this is the time.
    Last, how can having MAX trains….one of which carries 4 times the riders of a bus…not be an improvement to transit?
    Retail…with the exception of a couple of blocks the Mall has a pretty good mix of retail right now. The impacts, positive and negative, of the new Mall are overblown. Downtown is in competition with the Pearl and rising neighborhood retail, and some of the bloom has gone off the rose, with a lot of help from PBA which has been shoot itself in the foot by running Portland down for the last few years.

  15. Although Potestio’s specific proposal may be unworkable, he shows a surprising level of sophistication regarding transit for a Portland design professional. In particular, his reference to a “tiered” transport system points out that he understands well that the current Mall proposal is a Frankensteinian combination of bus, rail, and automobile that misuses the regional rail mode as downtown distributor. Sound bites like “Rail to PSU” or “Rail on the Surface” or “Rail should be on the Mall” may have superficial appeal, but they do nothing toward advancing an effective regional mass transit system that is an appealing alternative to auto travel.

    What is it we want for the Mall? A quiet, non-polluting mass transit distributor system? Streetcars or trolleybuses would be far more effective than two-car light rail trains. They can stop at closer intervals, so they are more convenient to access (like the Mall is now), and they can run more frequently, because, being single cars, they can enter blocks that are partially occupied by other traffic without danger of causing gridlock. Note that Max trains will be a minimum of five minutes apart on the Mall — otherwise more bus routes would need to be diverted.

    Keep Max on Yamhill/Morrison for now (we will need those Green Line trains to provide capacity to Washington County), and get to work on the grand plan or whatever, as well as defining the minimum buildable segments. It is ironic that as we speak, the Bureau of Environmental Services is building a subway system with tunnels bigger than the London Underground, for hauling sewage. Because Portland refuses to plan ahead, some of these sewers will screw up the possibility of providing Max subway connections under the Willamette at optimal elevations.

    Regarding LRT to Milwaukie, built it across the Hawthorne Bridge for now, intersecting the Mall, and convert the inner portion to Streetcar when a subway or new bridge to SE Portland is built.

  16. If I’m remembering this correctly from early MAX studies, Portland’s high water table pretty much rules out a subway downtown.

  17. The water table issue depends on how deep you want to go with the subway, and how much it will cost, but does not rule it out.

    A “cut and cover” type of construction (which would be the most disruptive to businesses during construction) would result in a subway that is probably no deeper than existing basements along the route. If we can have multi-level underground parking, we can have a subway, at least from a technical standpoint.

    Note that San Francisco’s BART runs for miles at the bottom of San Francisco Bay in twin tunnels. These tunnels were basically pipes buried in the muck at the bottom of the bay.

    Any proposal for a subway alignment should be viewed in terms of cost-benefit… there is nothing unique to Portland from an engineering perspective that hasn’t been achieved with tunnel construction in other cities.

    – Bob R.

  18. Changing to a subway would be a paradigm shift for MAX, but may have advantages. In San Francisco streetcars (5 lines) run midstreet, like busses, in most of the city, then dive underground just under Market Street for about 2 miles through the downtown core. Most stops are shared with BART one level below and are every 4-6 blocks or so. There is one streetcar line on the surface of Market for tourist appeal. People are used to the system. In Portland, they would have to “get used to it” which of course is difficult. As a frequent visitor and future resident of Portland I agree that MAX through downtown is painfully slow, no quicker than walking, ‘tho drier. In the long term, I think a MAX subway will be built, maybe just for east-west lines.

  19. I think a clear distinction should be made in this discussion between MAX as a regional transit tool and MAX as an intra-city transit tool.

    If MAX is for bringing people from the Metro area into the Center, than slow speeds in the Center are okay.

    If instead (or additionally) MAX is for moving people around the Metro area, including thru the Center, or for moving people from downtown to the Lloyd District (or similar trips) then slow trips thru the Core are antithetical to the entire system.

    Most major cities with good public transport have distinctly seperate options: regional and City Center transport options. EG: Paris has the RER for regional transit (which you can use to get around the Center but its slow just like MAX) and the Metro system, running both below and above ground which fast and efficient.

    Depending on whether you see MAX as having one purpose (regional) or multiple purposes, you will either see the obvious shortcomings with MAX or discount those failures outright.

  20. Nathan, a small request to make my life easier. You appear to be supplying a dummy e-mail address in the comment box – which is fine by me. But my spam filter is picking up the single character domain name and blocking it – so perhaps you could come up with something more realistic looking :-)

  21. No question but MAX tries to be three different kinds of rail transit…and suceeds rather well at each. First a higher speed regional rail service… through the West Hills tunnel or along the Banfield its as fast as most subways. Then a more local rail transit line…on Interstate Avenue and E. Burnside where stations are closer and speeds are lower, but TOD opportunities are much greater. Finally in the Central City it is a local streetcar type service, with frequent stops and slow speed, though faster than Streetcar (it has signal pre-emption on the eastside and on SW 1st Avenue.)
    For a small city with relatively low density and not a lot of resources it has worked very well and become part of the Central City landscape. I think it will fit very well into the existing Mall, and continue to be what it is…a hybrid.
    A subway may be in the future, but not the near future.

  22. Lenny,
    I’ve heard the “Portland’s a small city and we’re not ready for light rail er — subway yet”. Let me quote from ODOT’s minutes dated August 2, 1976 of the Banfield Transitway Citizens Advisory Meeting – July 29, 1976

    “Bill Lieberman, Tri-Met, stated there was a definite need for a system before light rail could seriously be considered. ….. the city wants something done now to solve some of the traffic problems that exist on the Banfield and to make the connection to I-205. ….. The city feels there is a definite need to get going right away. …..All computer data indicates that light rail would not get the ridership that would be necessary to justify the system”.

    By the way, the Toronto Metropolitan Area’s population was only about 1,000,000 in 1950 when they were building the first part of their subway system.

  23. Sorry Chris! Just trying to save some thumbstrokes on my handheld…

    Anyways, as Lenny says I think MAX does perorm admirably as a hybrid transit tool. However, others have stated, and I agree, that PDX is getting big enough that bigger and better transport is going to be a neccessity in the near future. The projections are for the Metro region to add, what?, like a half million people in the next 25 years! That’s a lot more density.

    All future development projects are going to be dense and we can assume that the roads aren’t gonna handle the additional traffic. Maybe a subway doesn’t make sense… But nothing I’ve seen indicates the new plane for the transit Mall makes sense either. I’d love to see a refurbished Mall, maybe with streetcar access… But we also need to get real and start planning for another explosion in population numbers.

    The next decades will be a major planning challenge. If the new Mall is the best out planners have to offer than I have to wonder if they have what it takes to meet that challenge…

  24. NAthan says “better transport is going to be a necessity in the future.” I am hoping that MAX can be surpassed by a new system–but I also hope the costs will come down! They should! Why?

    The entire equation is changing. East and West MAX lines are serving areas that are suburbanite in character. A truly urban region is different. Instead of several miles to your destination it might only be a half-mile–this making it even less necessary to have a “train.”
    “Trains” i.e. heavy,multicar assemblies running on dedicated ROW’s, are great in huge cities like NY or Chicago where hordes of suburbanites commute a long distance to downtown offices. But what if people come down the elevator of their urban condo and want to go to a business too far to walk–like a mile or two. They can get on a more compact vehicle. Then as soon as they get off, someone else has a similar trip. Etc.
    Etc. Is a big train needed? I don’t think so–even if the total number of riders is high if their trip only goes for a short distance there’s no great need for a big system.

    If Gresham and Hillsboro suddenly turned into replicas of South Waterfront–yes there would be a lot of riders. Ditto for Milwaukie and Oregon City. But that won’t happen for a long time. But the LRT cabal will continue to roll anyway. I would rather spend the money on dsigning a system to supersede MAX. Maybe I’m nuts.

  25. If all the suburbs had the density that SOWA is getting… hmm, let’s see here.

    According to Wiki:

    land area: 55.9 km^2
    pop: 79,000
    density: 1413 p/km^2

    land area: 57.6 km^2
    pop: 94,000
    density: 1632 p/km^2

    land area: 42.2 km^2
    pop: 80,000
    density: 1533 p/km^2

    Portland (city):
    land area: 347.9 km^2
    pop: 556,370
    density: 1599 p/km^2

    Well, finding out specifics on # units and # of acres for building in SoWa gets a little hairy, especially since its not finished.

    I’ll take this quote:

    “PDC plans to develop a minimum of 788 affordable rental and ownership housing units in the area. At full buildout, the 130-acre area is expected to provide a minimum of 3,000 housing units.”

    from the bizjournal:

    …and compare it to the density of downtown Vancouver, BC – since its hard to extrapolate from such a small area. I assume that Beaverton & Hillsobor would maintain the # of parkland they have and not build it all up.

    SoWa density: 23 units/acre (130 acres @ 3000 units). Average approx 1.3 people per unit? Approx 30 people/acre = 7410 p/km^2

    Downtown Vancouver:
    density: ~20,000 p/km^2 according to wiki

    I’ll take the more conservative number of 7,500 p/km^2 population density, as it allows other uses besides residential.

    At-density buildout potentials:

    land area: 42.2 km^2
    pop: 316,500
    land area: 55.9 km^2
    pop: 419,250
    land area: 57.6 km^2
    pop: 432,000
    land area: 347.9
    pop: 2,609,250

    Metro Area
    land area: ~600 sq mi (1554 km^2)
    pop: 11,655,000

    Note: Hong Kong as a whole has a comparable density of 6,500 people/km^2 by comparison, or 22,000 p/km^2 in the denser area. This compares to downtown Vancouver, Canada.

    At that density, the Portland Metro area could support the following pop:



    Okay, so I was bored. Thought I’d dispel the notion that Portland is a densely built out city, but in fact sprawls quite a bit. In comparison, Los Angeles’ (metro) density is in fact higher than that of Portland, the suburbs, and the overall metro area – 2,730 p/km^2 (wiki)

    Unfortunately, I don’t think the burbs are going to build out at that kind of density… although incremental gains could make a world of difference, particularly redevelopment of the ‘city’ cores.

    Happy Wednesday!

  26. Ron-i don’t think your crazy.

    At the moment I am living in .Milano. There’s a good subway/metro here with three long lines that all intersect, eg line interesects both lines 2 and 3. And so on. So its a great metro for a medium sized city and pretty much allows you access (if u don’t mind walking!) to most of the core.

    However, I mostlly use the tram system. The streetcar system is expansive and makes local stops to all the places you need to go. Its great… Moves in its own right of way on boulevards and shares with buses/cars/taxis at intersections and on smaller streets.

    The streetcar, I can say, is best for the urban environment. That is, unless you have the Paris metro, which PDX never will. It allows easy, local access and there is frequent service. It supports the surface activity that PDX planners seem to love and its *cheap* compared with LRT

    Its my opinion that three streetcar alignments would be a hell of a lot more useful than one more MAX. Say hawthore, capitol highwy and Grand ave just for starters. Maybe alberta, barbur thru portland, killingsworth, lower burnside etc

    So many options for cheap, convienent people movers for getting *around* town.

    Makes sense to me at least

  27. This is a little off-topic but I’d like to add something for discussion…

    I think it would be great to see all the medium density along the major Eastside roads transform into high density. That is, development of 5-6 story wall to wall mixed use buildings all along Burnside, Hawthorne, Belmont, Sandy and even more high density on Broadway. We could fit a lot of people into the city on those main thoroughfares and transform them into major “linear” neighborhoods. With the addition of high density development on these roads, along with streetcars, PDX could add many thousands of dwellings, create vibrant urban spaces outside the Core and leave the average low density Eastside development on the streets intact.

    I’d love to hear others thoughts on this. This type of development is very common in Europe and it facilitates a vibrant car-free lifestyle with high density at a low budget cost. Moreover, this type of development does not discriminate against the average homeowner that can’t afford Pearl/SoWa style condos.

    Any thoughts on how PDX could develop this type of linear neighborhood on one or more major roads?

  28. Well, market forces have already started to make it happen. It’s just getting the height and density in place… there are many projects heading this way. A couple names: Belmonst Street Lofts, The Standpoint (likely won’t be built, main investor recently passed away), and a couple of other ones I don’t know the names of. I believe there is one on Clinton (??) and 35th? Not sure, tho.

    As long as they keep it up and are allowed to develop without neighbors being able to prevent them (keep it small contexutal architecture), I would imagine they’ll get built. However, you don’t want to lose all of your existing historic architecture, either. What would Belmont be like without the Pied Cow, for instance?

  29. Wow – guys, I found your subway! It runs underneath the Willamette River, and connects the Lloyd Center area to downtown Portland. It runs ~120′ underground, and is perfectly sized to house trains!

    Here’s a pic:

    -Apparently the plan is to run crap through it. Quite a pity, at a cost of a billion dollars. They should just run the sewage lines along the street and put the trains underground.

  30. More photos
    And here’s the subway station with the train:

    As proven, subways allow longer consists than do lightrail trains in mixed traffic:

    Tight squeeze, but tunnel allows two-way rail traffic:

    Awesome photo down the tunnel:

    Oh well, we can dream, can’t we? One thing I wonder is if we do build a subway in the future, how will these intersecting tunnels cause problems – or is there enough room for separation between the CSO and potential subway line, underground freight rail, and underground I-5?

  31. There is an October 16, 2003 report of a review of “downtown Portland light rail tunnel concepts” done by URS Corporation for TriMet. This report was done in response to AORTA advocating planning for a future subway. This report indicates that the planned location of the CSO pipes would increase tunneling costs, requiring a deeper alignment than would otherwise be necessary. This study contains a wealth of information, including cost estimates. Perhaps Chris can obtain this from TriMet and post it.

  32. I’d be interested if there was somewhat of an idea about where the proposed route & stations would be (mall, cross mall, or new alignment). I think its pretty safe to say there would be a station around Pioneer Courthouse Square & Pioneer Place.

  33. I want to comment on the suggestion of putting all the trains on 6th Avenue, both directions. I sat on the CAC from March 2003 to February 2004 and asked the same question in that forum.

    Here’s the reason it couldn’t work, as I understand it: at the spacing of our downtown signals, you can’t make both directions on a two-street work with signal progression. On 6th Ave if you added trains in the southbound direction they would be stopped every block. If you tried to fix that, you’d mess up the northbound direction and all the cross streets.

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