Citizens, Pay Attention!

A few weeks ago I tried to answer the question of when was the decision to put Light Rail on the Transit Mall was really made.

I opined that these were continuous processes rather than discrete events (the adoption of a Locally Preferred Alternative is the discrete decision, but the consensus building along the way is far from discrete).

There was a signpost in yesterday’s Oregonian marking a milestone in another such process. A brief blurb in the “in Portland” section (too brief to make it to the web apparently) mentions a discussion in the North Macadam URAC (Urban Renewal Advisory Committee) about where the Milwaukie Light Rail line should cross the Willamette.

The current Locally Preferred Alternative is the so-called “Caruthers Crossing”, running from OMSI to the vicinity of RiverPlace. But there will be an opportunity to reassess this as the Milwaukie line goes through its next phase of planning.

The URAC is interested in advancing the idea of putting the crossing closer to the Ross Island Bridge, where it could serve the South Waterfront area. Development interests in that area will now try to flex their muscles to push for more service for their area.

On the other side will be OMSI and interests in the Central Eastside, who want to make sure LRT serves their area. They’ll be joined by Eastside Streetcar advocates (including yours truly) who want to use the Caruthers Crossing to get Streetcar back across the river.

In the middle is TriMet, who will be trying to figure out what configuration has the greatest ridership to help justify the application for Federal Funds.

So citizens, please pay attention and participate in the open houses and hearings. This is where these kinds of decisions get made!

12 responses to “Citizens, Pay Attention!”

  1. I’d have to look at an actual route proposal, but I think leaving the crossing at Caruthers and landing in the vicinity of Moody Avenue.

    This will give MAX an excellent connection with the streetcar and South Waterfront, while aligning it well to continue into downtown via Lincoln Avenue.

    Currently, the turning track area for the Transit Mall alignment is being designed with MAX approaching via Lincoln Avenue in mind. (It can be reconfigured, but utilities and buildings are being placed in the hope that they will not have to be relocated when the South Corridor project is added.)

    The question is: Who gets forced to transfer?

    If you route MAX across the river south of the Ross Island bridge, then Milwaukie and other SE residents will be forced to transfer perhaps twice when trying to connect to various inner SE destinations.

    If you keep the planned Caruthers alignment, then South Waterfront residents will have to transfer when, exactly? The Streetcar will already take them directly into downtown. Having direct MAX access would only benefit them when heading east/southeast.

    You’d have to show me that a significant portion, perhaps a majority of South Corridor MAX riders would be utilizing the South Waterfront area, which I doubt would be the case. Look at the ridership of the #33, #32, and #31 today and tell me how many of them will be wanting a direct connection to South Waterfront at the cost of access to inner SE?

    – Bob R.

  2. Another bridge? At what cost? Is this another tram fiasco in the making?

    I propose put the tracks back on the Hawthorne Bridge. (Who the heck thought taking them out only a few years ago was a good idea?)

    The cost of another bridge (construction and maintenance) might be better spent putting tracks all the way out Hawthorne Blvd which sorely needs any and every means of reducing motor traffic.

    We are putting great effort and much money into transportation improvements in many parts of the city. A huge exception is close in SE Portland where it is sorely needed. Traffic is so congested there now that I can literally bicycle from Mt Tabor to downtown as fast for faster than driving or the bus.

  3. I would tend to agree with Michael, more than other who keep proposing more complicated plans. I do think the Marquam Bridge could be utilized for a streetcar crossing, since it already lines up with both Harrison St. and OMSI. What more could you ask for? But Hawthorne Br. would be OK too. Furthermore I don’t see what would be wrong with extending an Eastside stretcar to Milwaukie, with connection to Lake OSwego and Johns Landing.

    Those who keep demanding removal of the Marquam Br. and I-5, in conjunction with a multi billion dollar corridor through East Side Portland, incorporating a hi-speed Amtrak, have not answered this question: Where would you reroute the Union Pacific railway to? It seems that it still has to get to Swan Island. I’ve seen some vague remarks. Since every component of an Eastside Restructuring plan must work, who is researching this part out? Has anyone ever probed UP out on this?

    Just because Amtrak presently snakes across the Willamette doesn’t mean it can not be high speed outside of the cities. Amtrak definitely needs some improvement; certainly a high speed Cascades corridor would present an alternative to jetting for business travelers.

    I keep seeing more and more complex plans coming up as Tri Met pushes ahead with their agenda. I guess that means job security for transportation planners and their favorite contractors. I’m not against TOD and commuter rail; but we shouldn’t design expensive systems with limited coverage. It seems, via streetcar routes, we could have a more thorough network for less money.

  4. Is it economically and technically feasible to add a lower deck to the Marquam Bridge for MAX to cross? As I recall, the Marquam Bridge was built to its current (rather excessive) height for clearance to the shipyards to the south. The shipyards are gone now; there’s probably room to run MAX under the lower deck and still leave plenty of clearance for sailboats.

    Personally, I’d prefer to see MAX serve OMSI. One of the things I enjoy about MAX is its ability to deliver families, school groups and tourists to major regional attractions.

  5. I don’t think adding MAX to the Marquam bridge is a good idea… retrofitting a lower deck (even if it would fit) and new southern approaches onto a heavily-travelled, active bridge seems risky and expensive to me.

    What’s so complicated about a new rivercrossing?

    I think the Hawthorne bridge is ideal for streetcar service out Hawthorne and Foster (upgrading the #14 line).

    But running MAX on the Hawthorne risks repeating the compromise of the Steel Bridge which we have been saddled with for 20 years and probably another 30.

    Running MAX on the Hawthorne would require either a dedicated MAX line (thus removing 1/2 of auto access, not a good idea on the Hawthorne) or MAX sharing with traffic and running at slow speeds. MAX will be delayed by bridge lifts (as it is on the Steel) and must run slow to cross bridge and catenary joints.

    A new river crossing would not only improve speeds, it would put MAX at the proper alignment to join seamlessly with PSU and the mall without requiring transfers.

    MAX coming up Main St. would miss a full 13 blocks of the Mall alignment, and while I can see Streetcars gracefully passing the historic fountain in mixed traffic between 3rd and 4th, I shudder to think of a 200ft MAX train being slowed to jog right and left around this.

    We have seven major bridges in the downtown area for auto traffic (including two freeway bridges) plus one antiquated mixed use (MAX and auto) bridge. Is it so complicated to dedicate a new river crossing to more efficient transit travel?

    My votes:
    Hawthorne Bridge for #14 Streetcar: Yes
    Hawthorne Bridge for MAX: No

    – Bob R.

    PS… In case anyone thinks this is a sudden development, a new river crossing for rail in that vicinity has been discussed and presented openly at workshops for years, is part of the DEIS, and is available on the TriMet web site.

  6. See my comments on this on the latest Mall string.
    OHSU and South Waterfront are or will soon be the fastest growing destinations in the region. It makes sense for the regional high capacity transit system (MAX) to connect to them. Either the Milwaukie line connects via the Tram in SoWa or a future Barbur line via its own link to OHSU.
    Close-in locations like OMSI, West Clinton and Brooklyn could get better station locations and comparable service from Streetcar than from the current MAX alignment along the UP tracks & 17th. The Hawthorne Bridge has not had tracks in a long, long time, but was retrofited to accommodate them a few years ago. I think MAX on that Bridge does not work, but Streetcar will.
    Last, Jim Howell has done a lot of work to figure out what to do with the UP mainline through CEID as removing I-5 and the Marquam bridge without burying the UP makes no sense.

  7. “Last, Jim Howell has done a lot of work to figure out what to do with the UP mainline through CEID as removing I-5 and the Marquam bridge without burying the UP makes no sense. ”

    It would really be burying everything, wouldn’t it? If you routed all I-5 traffic to the 405, the Fremont Bridge would get very congested, wouldn’t it, especially as Northwest continues to densify?

    I think you’re right about limited MAX sevice in SE Portland with the MAX line. If it went over a new bridge it would even miss a lot of that area.

    I would also like to see some realistic cost analysis of eventually extending commuter rail to Oregon City. I’m conjecturing that MAX costs will inflate over the years. Perhaps with Streetcar, we would be able to more efficently manage the sytem costs, assuming production is located here. Going just to Milwaukie doesn’t make a lot of sense; and crossing to Lake Oswego, while a good idea, is more of an excursion route than seruious commuting. But I do agree that downtown Portland should not be the only destination.

  8. Sounds like a similar debate 10 years ago about where to locate the MAX crossing over the Willamette: OMSI vs. North Macadam

    How is the Milwaukie MAX line envisioned to run thru RiverPlace (at least in preliminary designs now)? Lincoln street dead ends up in the South Auditorium district and then there is quite a grade change between RiverPlace and the South Auditorium district. Also how would the MAX line work with the existing streetcar line in Riverplace?

  9. As someone who once rode the old Oregon City streetcar, I often wonder where we would be in that corridor if our city fathers in 1958 had spent a few bucks to put tracks on the new Morrison Bridge. The line skirted Sellwood, but went along the Milwaukie waterfront, through the heart of Oak Grove and Gladstone and down Main Street in OC. About all we will salvage from it is the Trolley Trail.

  10. Speaking of citizens not participating in the planning process…

    I wonder if they ever did? I mean, were there times in recent or ancient history when the idea that cities and their growth are things that can be planned was more widely recognized?

    I also wonder what could be done to get people more involved. Perhaps if school curriculum put more emphasis on the history of the city or even the neighborhood – pointing out how it is that things came to be and how citizens, government, and companies affected development – kids would grow up thinking more about how they can have a positive influence on the shape of their surroundings.

    Sorry for the tangent!

  11. You can explain things to people but you can’t understand for them.

    Back in the summer of 2002, some citizens proposed a better idea than an aerial tram (underground people mover) but were ignored by the experts, politicians and community leaders who wanted only an aerial tram. These citizens failed to do the necessary research to expose the fatal engineering flaws in the design that is now making this project so expensive. If they had, would the experts, politicians and community leaders have listened?

    Now, some citizens are proposing a better idea for revitalizing the transit mall, but this time they have done the necessary research to identify the fatal flaws in the current design. Are the experts, politicians and community leaders now listening before huge sums of public money are spent and this flawed project that will surely come back to bite them?

    Ditto for the Columbia River Crossing project where overpaid consultants are weeding out the best ideas of citizens (CRC Step ”A” Screening Report) so they can proceed with their preconceived multi-billion dollar mega-freeway project.

  12. I need seeing a new bridge “Caruthers Crossing” image on Internet. Can I see an image of Caruthers Crossing on Internet or send me E-mail attachment. I support Bus Trolley (trackless), tram, streetcar, light rail, and subway in Portland, OR area.

    Trolley buses started in Portland last January 31, 1936 to October 23, 1958. You can find “Portland” Please write to TRI-MET immediate action. Thank you for help!

    I also wonder what could be done to get people more involved. Perhaps if school curriculum put more emphasis on the history of the city or even the neighborhood – pointing out how it is that things came to be and how citizens, government, and companies affected development – kids would grow up thinking more about how they can have a positive influence on the shape of their surroundings.

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