Willamette Shoreline Transit/Trail Options Come into Focus

At a meeting Tuesday of the Steering Committee overseeing both the Eastside Streetcar project and the Willamette Shoreline analysis, a few things got clearer.

The Lake Oswego Project Advisory Committee (LOPAC in Metro-speak) had recommended a dog’s breakfast of options for further review:

  • 2 River Transit options
  • 3 Streetcar options (in the current rail right-of-way, on Highway 43 and a hybrid of the two)
  • 2 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) options
  • Several variations on trail options using pieces of the riverside Greenway, the rail right-of-way and other potential paths
  • And finally, the no-build (do nothing) option

In addition the Metro Council sent word that it would like to see analysis of using the rail bridge between Lake O and Milwaukie to serve Lake Oswego via some kind of connection to Milwaukie Light Rail (it was noted that the bridge could not support a catenary system as long as it was still being used for freight, so some kind of self-propelled vehicle would be required).

While the Steering Committee did not formally kill any of the options it did ask that staff not spend any further time analyzing River Transit until LOPAC had the opportunity to review the three prior studies (all of which said it doesn’t pencil). They also similarly de-emphasized the BRT option that would go over Terwilliger and back to Macadam via Boones Ferry and Taylors Ferry (apparently as an attempt to avoid the congestion on Highway 43). And it was agreed that Metro would use its own staff to look at the rail bridge to Milwaukie.

So it looks to me like the detailed analysis will be between BRT on 43 and some variation of the Streetcar routing (and the no-build option), with either being complemented by a multi-use trail.


16 responses to “Willamette Shoreline Transit/Trail Options Come into Focus”

  1. No interest in an elevated freeway through Dunthorpe? Too bad. We used freeways to destroy poor neighborhoods in Portland; we should at least look at returning the favor. It could link to my favorite freeway project…the Bob Tiernan expressway between Oak Grove and Kruse Woods, providing a new bridge across the Willamette and great access to downtown LO with a big double deck interchange at Route 43. Who says I don’t love freeways.

  2. Why is freight incompatible with a catenary system? They sucessfully mix on San Diego’s LRT system. Overall, it will be interesting if they try to use the existing rail line, seeing the development that has encroached upon it. And while it would be nice to have river transit, it would probably not be able to serve mid-route stops.

  3. Why not use the same DMU’s we’re using for Beaverton-Wilsonville rail. A DMU shuttle from Milwaukie to LO could connect directly to the Milwaukie (and hopefully all the way to OC) MAX. It’s less than 2 miles from LO to Milwaukie via this rail bridge and a single DMU would be able to make that round trip and be timed to meet every MAX train. Assuming a 30mph average speed, that’s less than 5 minutes each way.

  4. Connecting LO to Milwaukee would be a boone for each of the communities, especially if done so with the Streetcar. The DMU Option is a nice idea too but would most likely require a transfer – tranfers == not cool. Especially for the pre-Gentrified area of LO.

    With the contention that Milwaukee get’s it’s light rail line in the near future (5 years) these systems could be built in conjunction with each other.

  5. Regarding compatibility with the catenary system, from what I have seen this bridge has trusses which span across the tracks with a low clearance. It may be that there simply isn’t room to add an overhead wire because of the constraints of the bridge. That’s just a guess, though.

    – Bob R.

  6. Assuming there is a way to add catenary wires to the bridge (not sure if that’s the case, but let’s assume), why not just make it LR compatible and have MAX go to LO through Milwaukie? This would make Dunthorpe very happy. They may even be willing to help pay for that alignment to keep the streetcar out of their back yards. Let them put their money where their mouth is….

  7. Lenny says:

    “It could link to my favorite freeway project…the Bob Tiernan expressway between Oak Grove and Kruse Woods, providing a new bridge across the Willamette and great access to downtown LO with a big double deck interchange at Route 43.”

    I’m assuming this comment is tongue-in-cheek. Yet, the increasing populations in both Clackamas Co, and Washington Co. justify some other way to cross the Willamette River, besides the out-of-the-way detours to Sellwood or OregonCity. Even if Lake Oswego is not aware of this plight, we in Sellwood are, and are becoming weary of absorbing the increased traffic (although, ironically, we do favor enough traffic to make the merchants happy!)

    I’ve never advocated a double-decked concrete monstrosity. The renaissance of decorative concrete work could allow a bridge aesthetic enough even for LO tastes. I suggested Oak Grove Bv. to Foothills as the cheapest, least disruptive route. However if the existing RR bridge is utilized for a light-rail vehicle, I could also see the possibility of a buried two lane auto route, under the tracks. The cost would probably be four times as much as my other suggestion. Speaking of burrowing–a tunnel connecting the Foothills area to the junction of Iron Mountain Bv. and A Ave would at least protect downtown LO from the dreaded traffic increase, that either route could produce.

    And that would give folks at Willamette View somewhere to go, since it is right on the path.

  8. My understanding is that the caternary/freight conflict is that freight cars are much taller than the Streetcar. Any catenary system that cleared the freight cars would be unreachable by the pantagraph on the Streetcar.

    I think DMUs across the bridge are a great idea, probably as part of a Milwaukie to Washington County commuter rail connection. But I don’t think a DMU->Light Rail transfer crossing the Willamette twice is much of a substitute for a 1-seat ride up the west side of the river on Streetcar.

  9. Chris –

    Do you have any info you can post on studies that have been done of the current Lake Oswego heritage ROW? I curious to know where room for double-tracked sections, passing sidings, etc., is available. I have ridden the heritage trolley and it is a beautiful route, but many of the areas along the ROW had dififcult terrain or existing development going up to very near where the tracks are.

    Regarding objections of property owners, well, if I were purchasing a home along a publicly-owned rail corridor, especially one with tracks still remaining, I’d expect that someday trains may be running again. It’s built in to the property value already. However, if tracks have to be moved closer to homes, ROW acquired, passing sidings added, etc., then those property owners should have significant input into the public process which determines what goes where.

    – Bob R.

  10. I’m not finding a lot of documents on Metro’s web site, but there are a few things here:


    I have a hardcopy of a TriMet feasibility ‘quick look’ that was done a few years ago. It’s pretty clear that if you stayed in the current rail ROW, there are some places where you would have to single-track.

    The bigger question may be whether you can fit track AND a trail in the ROW in some places.

  11. Chris says ” But I don’t think a DMU->Light Rail transfer crossing the Willamette twice is much of a substitute for a 1-seat ride up the west side of the river on Streetcar.”

    I would agree that the Westshore streetcar would be the best option, particularly with the growth envisioned for LO, as well as every other area around here. (How soon will we add the next million?)

    I would like to see less transferring,( agreed: transfers ain’t cool) but I guess if we are going ahead with Milwaukie MAX, getting from LO to the Lloyd District would either involve three rides or a trip through downtown Portland. I suppose alternating routes would be a solution: One car going fronm LO to Northwest, the next going from LO to Lloyd District, at least during non peak hours. This is what I have been suggesting, anyway, is that from any given terminus there could be alternating destinations. I suggested the Marquam bridge lower sections could be used as the main crossing. Not that there is any problem in using the Broadway to connect Pearl District and Lloyd District. But I suppose we are headed to a new bridge at Caruthers for the MIlwaukie MAX…

    If a station is built at the West end of the Sellwood bridge (which, I am guessing, when combined with a new interchange and rebuilt bridge might be the best way to stabilize that area against landslides) could this provide a ‘siding’ where a north bound car could stop, while a southbound one passes, or vice versa? Doesn’t the question of whether more than a single track is needed result from this problem? You could have a similar layout in LO, allowing two cars to exist side by side. It isn’t that far from Sellwood Bridge to LO that cars would have to be on that stretch at the same time. Unless someone knows of an intermediate siding spot. By the way, where would the stop for Lewis and Clark Coll. be? And a place for a shuttle bus?

    So can a single track exist with a trail at all places along the route? It might take some creativity: Like a suspended pathway along the bluffs, such as where the tunnel is.

  12. Ron, I think we would single-track in selected stretches if necessary (as we do today just below Urban Plaza and from RiverPlace to Gibbs – both of which we hope in the future to double-track as development allows), but most of the route to LO would be double-tracked.

  13. The following is AORTA’s recommendation for the Lake Oswego Corridor. We take no position regarding the location of the trail other than it should connect to transit at key stops and not impede efficient transit operation.

    We recommend two modes of transit in this corridor – buses and streetcars. Neither the Willamette Shore Rail Line nor Highway #43 individually can accommodate a major transit facility like light rail or BRT lanes without extensive land acquisition, but together they can compliment each other to provide reliable, timely, high-capacity service with little additional right-of-way.

    The #35 Macadam bus route should continue to operate between Oregon City and downtown Portland, but with much more frequent service over its entire length. It should not be truncated at Lake Oswego because that would force an unnecessary mid-trip transfer for many long distance riders. Bus stops should be enhanced with adequate shelters and pedestrian access. Signal preemption and queue bypasses should be provided where needed in order to maintain reliable bus schedules.

    In addition, the single-track rail line should be rebuilt and electrified for fast, efficient streetcar operation with enough passing sidings to allow reliable schedules with frequencies of 20 or 30 minutes. Some of the Portland Streetcars should continue their run south to Lake Oswego without delays or transfers. They should operate express; only a few strategic stops would be required in this segment since local service would still be provided by the #35 Macadam bus route. All grade crossings should be gated for safety and the track should be physically separated from bicycles and pedestrians using a fence or other barrier.

    A transfer hub or exchange is needed in Lake Oswego where buses, streetcars and future commuter trains on the P&W commercial rail line can interface. An indoor station with passenger amenities such as a waiting area, public restrooms and coffee shop or restaurant should be provided at this exchange. When transfers can be made quickly and conveniently in a safe and pleasant environment, park and ride facilities are not needed. If made available, they should generate revenue for the transit system.

    In order to provide timely, convenient local service to the Lake Oswego area,
    bus service needs to be reorganized, upgraded and expanded. It should provide all-day, everyday service with no greater than half-hour frequencies, timed to meet other buses and trains at the exchange.

    If, after the Beaverton-Wilsonville commuter line is completed, the P&W freight line through Lake Oswego should also be upgraded for DMU passenger service. It could provide fast and convenient transit service between Milwaukie, Lake Oswego, Tigard and Beaverton, and commuter service to Yamhill County. In Tualatin it could make timed connections to the Beaverton-Wilsonville commuter line.

  14. For all of the recent redevelopment in downtown LO, the highest concentration of jobs and probably highest job growth rate are in Kruse Woods north to the I-5/217/99W triangle. How to we get high capacity transit there?

  15. Barbur Blvd MAX takes care of the northern edge along 99W. Two commuter rail lines through LO (Union Station to McMinnville and Clackamas/212/224 to Beaverton) would touch the eastern edge of the Kruse Way area.

  16. Short and sweet, the Streetcar is not a FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) compliant vehicle, and therefore can’t run over the Willamette River bridge unless Portland & Western stops running freight trains, or only runs freight trains at night. This is the same reason that TriMet had to purchase the Colorado Railcar DMU, over several other, European designs – the Colorado Railcar design is the only one that meets the FRA requirements for a self-propelled railcar.

    Even if the Streetcar could receive a FRA waiver, the pantographs would have to be resigned for a higher catenary wire height, to clear freight cars. (The San Diego Trolley vehicles have pantographs that do reach higher, and the mixed freight-LRV operation is grandfathered, but my understanding is that they are building new freight-only tracks.)

    Rebuilding the line from Milwaukie to Sherwood makes sense as another commuter rail corridor – connecting Sherwood, Beaverton-Wilsonville Commuter Rail in Tualatin, Streetcar in Lake Oswego, and MAX in Milwaukie, and creating a brand new travel corridor – using the Colorado Railcar DMUs, or Budd RDCs.

    (Rebuilding the line beyond Sherwood makes no sense whatsoever, just between Sherwood and Newberg would cost hundreds of millions alone, and would have a negative travel-time impact. Yamhill County needs to invest in commuter busses first and prove there is a demand, before expensive rail options are even considered.)

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