The Oregonian reports that Portland’s next light rail line – to be its fifth – has been approved for preliminary engineering by the Federal Transit Administration. The Portland-Milwaukie Line (Orange Line) will run north-south between the two cities. The approval does not guarantee essential New Start federal funding for the line, but it does promise federal money for planning and a likely future contract. The line has received $250 million thus far from the state legislature, which combined with expected federal money and local tax revenues, will cover the cost of the line. However, Portland’s transit agency, Tri-Met, has not yet found the operating funds for the project. The agency is currently planning significant service reductions because of a recent loss in sales tax revenues.
The 7.3-mile line will run from downtown Portland to Park Avenue in Milwaukie, with 10 intermediate stops, including along Portland’s rapidly developing south waterfront. If the construction timeline holds steady, the $1.4 billion project will be completed by 2015. The system is expected to carry almost 30,000 riders daily by 2030. The downtown segment of the route will be shared with the Green Line LRT currently under construction and sit along the Portland Mall. In addition, the line’s bridge over the Willamette River will be shared with a future streetcar loop, currently being planned.
Considering Portland’s breathtaking success in getting its light rail projects built, there’s little reason to believe that the city won’t be able to secure money from Washington to complete this line. What’s particularly exciting about the project is that unlike the soon-to-open Green Line, as well as much of the routes of the older Red and Blue Lines, this Orange Line will not operate in a freeway median. As a result, there will be significantly more opportunities for transit-oriented development in the areas around the line’s stations. Like the streetcar, then, this line may act as a generator for a number of not-so-dense neighborhoods, and not just serve to wake up a few hotstops as previous light rail lines in the city have. This promises to be the city’s best transit expansion project yet.
Image above: Plan for Portland-Milwaukie LRT, from Tri-Met