Streetcar Heads South

This morning’s Oregonian previewed today’s Council vote on extending Streetcar to Lowell St., the southern end of the current South Waterfront development area.

I am told the Council voted 4-0. So next year about this time we’ll be celebrating another opening!

One of the amazing things about this particular extension is that the local property owners contributed about 3 times more to the LID (as a percentage of project cost) than the prior parts of the alignment.

14 responses to “Streetcar Heads South”

  1. Chris, will Streetcar be producing some detailed maps of the extension soon? With station information, etc?

    I’d love to see some more info on the official website. Right now there is nothing even mentioned beyond Gibbs (other than less-immediate Lake O).

  2. That’s great. I was asking the John Ross people if/when they knew if the extension was going to be added. Between their lack of knowing and the ridiculousness of future taxes I passed on my purchase.

    Speaking of that, LID is a tax right? By any realistic definition?

    If they’re said to have contributed how does one decide or how does one be told how much one must contribute to the LID?

  3. It’s not technically a tax, but a semi-voluntary assessment. There is a voting process by which a majority (the voting is complicated, based on a percentage of the area being assessed) of the property owners agree to assess themselves.

    What it means is that there is a complex negotiation with and among the property owners to get the amounts right before everybody signs off.

  4. Ah… sounds like fun. A complex form of semi-mutual negotiations. hmmm. Not sure what I think of it but I’d love to see it in action one day, just so I’d know what to think of it.

    Thanks for the description.

  5. For anyone interested in just where this 8-block loop will be, please refer to this Google Map.

    According to the Oregonian Article, “The 4-0 vote means construction should start next month to extend the line in an eight-block loop that ends at Lowell Street. The line, which will start running in fall 2007, will go south on Southwest Moody Avenue, turn left on Lowell Street and head north up Bond Avenue.”

    You can follow that route pretty clearly on the Google Map. The Green Arrow indicates the current Gibbs St. terminus.

    – Bob R.

  6. SoWa is broke
    Saito is the chair of the SoWa URAC

    0690 SW Bancroft St
    Portland Oregon, 97239

    City Commissioners
    Portland Oregon

    RE: LID for the SW Lowell St Streetcar Extension

    Dear City Commissioners,

    T&E Investments is a property owner in the SouthWaterFront District. We have participated in the planning of the District’s redevelopment for 20 years. Our property, located at 0690 SW Bancroft (adjacent to and South of the Old Spaghetti Factory Restaurant) currently houses three businesses that employ approximately 270 people.

    Through participation in various planning efforts such as the greenway masterplan, the urban renewal advisory, and various transportation planning efforts, we have come to appreciate the complex blend of infrastructure and building construction that implements the planning that has taken place. These efforts are affective and the area is transforming into an urban neighborhood as we have planned.

    There is a growing trend of planning that impacts the implementation and ultimately the quality of this neighborhood that we’d like to call to your attention. Although in general favor of the formation of the LID for the Lowell St Streetcar extension, we believe that the planning process that has led to this particular LID is faulty. It is also indicative of future, similar pitfalls that may arise.

    The costs of each successive Streetcar extension into SouthWaterFront have risen as has costs for most of the infrastructure in the District. An alarming trend that the proposed LID demonstrates is the burden that falls to all of us in public and private sectors when the planning and coordination of the entire district is not done with a broad perspective. Such a perspective will serve to create the best district with the planned goals in mind rather than advance specific elements without insight as to the ramifications of all of the districts needs.

    In the case of the proposed LID, the private property owners share of the three Streetcar extensions have risen from 12% to 12.8% to the proposed 46.7% of the project costs. These figures are rough estimates from past PDC planning documents as your consultants, have not had time to provide accurate costs comparisons. Even with the “rough” figures, the cost trends are significant.

    While the private property owners share has risen sharply, the notable public funding that has decreased is that from the Urban Renewal Area (URA). These funds have decreased from 34.9% to 24% to O%. This decrease in itself is not alarming but since no other areas of public funding have increased, the unintended and unplanned consequence is an unfair burden placed on a few property owners.

    The truly disturbing fact is that this could happen on any number of other future projects such as greenway, street projects, or affordable housing. In the future, it also may not be the private property owners who are unfairly burdened. Seeking resolution to the specific issues while keeping a perspective on the entire development is imperative. Making decisions with the full knowledge of how those decisions impact tomorrows projects is the only way to provide the ultimate leadership that we expect of the commission.

    Please review the circumstances of the present LID project, attain a broad perspective of all the future needs of the district, and help us to continue the implementation of the district. If you decide to revise the financial structure of this project or if we can assist in any other way, we would be pleased to respond.

    Eric T. “Rick” Saito,
    Partner, T&E Investments

    Cc: Larry Brown, PDC
    Cheryl Twete, PDC
    Rachel Blakeman, PDC
    Carter MacNichol, Portland Streetcar Inc

  7. Another way to look at this is that the property owners could have waited for the Lowell extention several years before the district generated sufficient funds to move forward at the traditional LID level. I would suggest that the found it to their financial advantage to participate at a higher level and have it happen sooner.

    I would note that Rick Saito is also on “LOPAC”, the committee evaluating the options to get from SoWa to Lake Oswego.

  8. Look at it any way you want.
    The point here was TIF money has dried up, fallen way short of projections and is causing all sorts of problems including increased LID payments to backfill.

    “These funds [TIF] have decreased from 34.9% to 24% to O%.”

    PDOT and parks have also diverted millions to backfill lacking TIF revenue and soaring public improvement project costs.

    In other words the SoWa plan has fallen apart much like the $15.5 million Tram.

    According to the PDC later phase TIF revenue is now being devoured leaving nothing for SoWa progress down the road a bit.

    Apparently none of that matters as long as more rail comes along.

  9. You may be sure that the record level of private investment in SoWa will in time bring plenty of TIF to the table. In the meantime, it looks like a majority of property owners have opted for a faster time table using LID dollars, which come from those who can expect to benefit the most, at least in the longer term. The losers are organizations that are in the LID minority who were just minding their own business and not banking on the increased property values that investment in parks, trams, streetcars, etc. will bring.

  10. Chris –

    Can you give us an idea of what all is included in the $14.5 million?

    For an 8-block loop (which is really 18 blocks when you consider that the “8” are really double-length Portland-size blocks, plus the east-west travel) of approx. 3600 ft, that figures out to .681 miles or $21 million per mile. Is that in keeping with past Streetcar capital costs? Any additional rolling stock in there?

    – Bob R.

  11. Bob, $21M/mile is about right. The first 2.4 mile alignment was $56M. The total investment through the Gibbs extension (about 4M) is about $100M total.

    There is no rolling stock for the Lowell extension, the 3 cars currently on order to support Gibbs should suffice, but we do hope to get the domestically manufactured prototype car into service to improve headways in the future.

  12. Chris wrote: “Bob, $21M/mile is about right. The first 2.4 mile alignment was $56M. The total investment through the Gibbs extension (about 4M) is about $100M total.”

    Chris, please correct me if I’m wrong, isn’t the original 2.4 mile alignment really 4.8 miles of trackway, plus 5 streetcars? That figures out to $11.6 million per track mile, including the streetcars, constructed in under arguably tough conditions in existing, operating downtown streets.

    I know that construction costs have risen dramatically in 5 years, but is it really the case that a streetcar extension in a new development, with no new streetcars, costs double per track mile? That’s why I asked what all was included… is the streetcar picking up the tab on things it didn’t use to, like street foundations, other paving, non-shelter furnishings, etc? What cost advantage did the downtown portion offer which is not present here?

    I know that the Riverplace extension was more costly downtown, but it did include a whole new roadway (the Harrison connector) and new streetcars.

    – Bob R.

  13. Wasn’t much of the track for the downtown streetcar still in place under the roadway so it only needed to be uncovered and used?

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