Eastside streetcar gets ready to roll, but not everyone is thrilled

Eastside streetcar gets ready to roll, but not everyone is thrilled »Play Video
A driver's view of the east side route. (Photo by Michael Warner, KATU News)

PORTLAND, Ore. – The new eastside Portland Streetcar line opens in about two weeks, and on Thursday, reporters got to tag along for a test drive on the new route.

The line branches off the Northwest Portland loop and crosses the Broadway Bridge. It then rolls past the Rose Quarter, Lloyd Center Mall area, the Oregon Convention Center and then the semi-industrial area close to the Willamette River before ending up at OMSI below the Marquam Bridge.

In 2015, the new streetcar route will cross the new mass transit and pedestrian bridge over the Willamette River currently being built near OMSI. The line will connect with the planned Milwaukie branch of the MAX rail line and also loop back into downtown Portland.

The $148 million project began three years ago. Project leaders claim the line has already brought economic development along the 3.35-mile route.

“We have nearly $500 million in developments already occurring along the streetcar [line] that are all privately motivated,” Portland Streetcar Executive Director Rick Gustafson said.

But business owner Peter Clover has his doubts.

"I'm not sure how much ridership we're gonna get on the east side of town here,” Clover said. He owns the Mobile West car audio shop, which is on the streetcar’s route. “This is not the same as the Pearl District or downtown.  It's not walk-by shopping.”

Supporters of the streetcar’s expansion claim it will bring customers to eastside businesses and strengthen the local economy.

About half of the cost of the new line is being covered by a federal grant. Most of the rest of the tab is being covered by Portland Development Commission and a local improvement district.

About $20 million in state lottery funds are paying for six new streetcars, which are being built by United Streetcar in Clackamas.

The new streetcar line opens to the public on Sept. 22.