This morning the Oregonian editorialized against further development of the Lake Oswego to Portland streetcar project, citing the cost. That’s the new cost estimate of $208M (not including the value of the right-of-way we already own), not the $400M+ estimate that came out of the last round of the NEPA process.
Without getting into an argument about whether the project is a good idea or not (we’ve done that before, multiple times), I do want to take a moment to explain the math that keeps local policymakers intrigued.
Let’s assume for the moment that both numbers above ($208M construction plus $80M right-of-way) are accurate.
That gives us a total project “cost” (by the Federal way of reckoning) of $288M. Assuming a successful New Starts application, the Feds cough up half, leaving the locals with a $144M tab.
But wait! We get to count the value of the right-of-way toward the match – so suddenly for $64M in local cash, we can potentially have a $288M transit line.
There are still a lot of hoops that this project has to jump through, but that value proposition will continue to compel local electeds to look for ways to get through those hoops.