Tram ride could set you back $4

Tram ride could set you back $4 »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. - It could cost more to ride the aerial tram than first thought.

The tram, one of Portland's most controversial public works projects in decades, was supposed to cost riders $1.70 for a one-way ticket.

But Commissioner Sam Adams is supporting a higher charge of $4 for a round-trip in order to pay for higher-than-expected construction and operating costs.

An official with the executive management committee for the tram said Tuesday night that so far they've received a negative reaction to the $4 fare. That has caused the committee to discuss other options to cover operating costs without charging riders that much.

The news comes as the tram is set to open to the public Jan. 27. 

The rate increases are associated with increased costs for operating the tram:

Construction costs were supposed to run $15.5 million but ended up costing $57 million.

Operating costs were supposed to run $915,000 annually but instead will cost $1.7 million.

Those behind the project said some cost estimates just were not accurate.

"You know there was a lot of early estimates for the project that were based on assumptions and some of those have not turned out to be true," said Art Pearce, the tram project manager.

He said taxpayers will only pay about 15 percent of the bill. And that will come from money that would have been spent on parks and streets.

The city's portion of the tax dollars that will pay for this tram come from tax dollars generated by development on the south waterfront.

A check of other projects shows Portland's tram is unusually expensive.

The same company is building a tram at the Jackson Hole Ski Area in Wyoming. Though it carries more people and travels more than 4,000 feet up a mountainside, it cost just $20 million. That's less than half the cost of Portland's much smaller and shorter tram.

Some neighbors like Stephan Leflar said taxpayers are getting ripped off.

"They didn't really need the tram but it's a great device," he said. "It's fun." 

But riders love it.

"My office is up there, and I see patients down here," said Dr. Jeff Kraakeva. "It was taking us about 20 minutes to a half hour to get down here before, and now it takes four minutes."