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Portland Aims to Replicate Streetcar Success on East Side of Willamette River

Six months ago Portland celebrated the opening of a 3.3-mile extension of their modern streetcar system across the Willamette River.

The $148.3 million Portland Streetcar project represents a significant expansion of the existing six-mile system, and city leaders hope it will find similar success in the Lloyd District, Buckman and Hosford-Abernethy neighborhoods as it has in the Pearl District and Northwest District.

At the time when Portland built its first streetcar leg, the Pearl District was a rundown industrial district in search of new life, and the Northwest District was looking to build on its existing stability.

Pearl District Buckman Neighborhood
Portland’s Pearl District [LEFT] has seen a massive transformation over the past decade, and many hope the streetcar’s recent extension will do the same for the city’s Buckman neighborhood [RIGHT]. Photographs by Randy Simes for UrbanCincy.

The story is not all that different on the east side of the river where the Buckman and Hosford-Abernethy neighborhoods are looking for the streetcar to breathe new life into its underutilized land and lingering industrial users, and the Lloyd District is trying to build on its successes and possibly reinvent itself with a lesser focus on the automobile.

While the streetcar extension is operating daily, the investments are not quite finished. Transportation officials are waiting on an additional six streetcar vehicles to roll off the production line so that service frequencies can be improved for the system’s four million annual riders.

TriMet officials are also overseeing progress on the construction of the new Portland-Milwaukie Bridge which will provide a river crossing for bicycles, pedestrians, streetcars, and light rail from Hosf0rd-Abernethy to the South Waterfront District as part of a the 7.3-mile Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project.

The $134 million bridge project is expected to open in September 2015 and buoy both new and existing ridership on the city’s light rail and streetcar systems.

Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Bridge South Waterfront District
Construction progresses on the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Bridge in November 2012 [LEFT], which will connect the Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood with the South Waterfront District [RIGHT]. Photographs by Randy Simes for UrbanCincy.

The verdict is still out on whether or not the new east side streetcar extension will have as big of an impact as it did on the west side of the river next to downtown, but the possibilities are there.

The streetcar’s alignment through Buckman and Hosford-Abernethy heads south along Martin Luther King Boulevard and north a block over on Grand Avenue. To the west of MLK Boulevard is the river with a large collection of warehouses in between. To the east of Grand Avenue is an in-tact neighborhood that has become increasingly popular with young creative types over the past several years.

In between the two streets one will find a collection of aging car dealerships and associated service businesses that date back to the mid-twentieth century.

These large parcels, combined with the large warehouse properties immediately to the west, offer a unique opportunity for large scale redevelopment. Such massive real estate investment might not be plausible without another real estate bubble.

The prospects are there, however, and if Portland can pull off even a fraction of the investment in Buckman as they saw in the Pearl District, then the city will add billions of dollars to its real estate value and create a secondary downtown in the city center for the 2.2 million person region.

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More than $64.3B to be invested in North American rail transit in 2013

More than $64.3B to be invested in North American rail transit in 2013.

As the migration of people from the suburbs back to cities continues, so does the investment in urban forms of transport. A modern streetcar route is currently under construction in Cincinnati, and bus rapid transit, light rail and commuter rail is all being studied for the area. Nationally, more than $64.3 billion is being invested to expand rail transit. More from The Transport Politic (including map):

What is evident is that certain cities are investing far more than others. Among American cities, Denver, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington stand out as regions that are currently investing particularly dramatically. Toronto has the biggest investments under way in Canada. These metropolitan areas have invested billions of local dollars in interconnected transit projects that will aid in the creation of more livable, multi-modal environments. Dynamic, growing cities require continuous investment in their transit systems.

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Work begins on $15 billion Manhattan infill project

Work begins on $15 billion Manhattan infill project.

Earlier this week, New York City officials celebrated the groundbreaking of Hudson Yards, a new $15 billion office and residential district to be built above the Long Island Railroad’s yard on Manhattan’s west side. The development’s 16 towers will create nearly as much new office and residential space as currently exists in downtown Cincinnati. An extension of the #7 subway serving the development will be completed in 2014 and new buildings should be ready for occupancy in 2015. More from the New York Daily News:

The groundbreaking ends years of deal-making between developers and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns the rail yard and will lease the development rights for 99 years for more than $1 billion…The 26-acre site, to be built on platforms over the rail facility, will be the largest private real estate development in the history of New York.

For New Yorkers trying to wiggle out of a recession, Hudson Yards could mean thousands of jobs and hundreds of units of affordable housing…Urban experts see Hudson Yards as a means for New York to stay competitive with Shanghai, London and Paris as a key 21st century city.

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Would an aerial tram make sense for Mt. Adams?

Would an aerial tram make sense for Mt. Adams?.

The number of cities using aerial trams (cable cars) as a means of urban transport is growing. In Cincinnati, the idea of implementing an aerial tram between Over-the-Rhine and Mt. Adams has long been considered. Often times the trams take passengers from low-lying areas to the tops of hillsides, but they are also being used to traverse rivers and more. More from The Guardian:

Cable transport is cost-effective, environmentally friendly, safe and requires little infrastructure. It is particularly suitable for crossing natural obstacles such as rivers or scaling hills, there being no need for expensive engineering work. Over an equivalent distance a cable link costs half as much as a tram line, and though no rival for underground railways in terms of capacity, some models can carry up to 8,000 passengers an hour.

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Portland moves forward with $400M plan to cap Interstate 5

Portland moves forward with $400M plan to cap Interstate 5.

The City of Portland and Oregon Department of Transportation are moving forward with a $400 million plan to cap Interstate 5 through several urban districts. Cincinnati leaders rebuilt Fort Washington Way so that it could be capped in the future, but nothing has come of those investments first made in 1999. More from The Oregonian:

“I-5 has been a huge divide in this community for too long,” said committee member Justin Zeulner of Portland Arena Management.  Zeulner said the freeway lid and new bike and pedestrian bridge would help connect Lloyd District with the Rose Quarter and the riverfront. “This is critical for the future of our community.”