An infusion of federal funds will scoot the Portland Streetcar a bit closer toward its planned Slabtown expansion.
The Federal Transit Administration wrote a check to the city's lighter-than-light-rail network for $1,076,000, which will be used to study development opportunities along the proposed 2.3-mile loop of new track terminating at Montgomery Park in Northwest Portland.
"It's a great opportunity for us to use some federal money and really plus up some of the work that's already ongoing," said Andrew Plambeck, a spokesman for the Portland Streetcar. "There's a ton of redevelopment potential baked in with existing zoning."
The new line would run north along Northwest 18th and 19th avenues before turning west at York and Wilson streets. The money will help determine if changing zoning to allow for residents over retail can entice developers' dollars, as well as whether the rail lines will impact traffic.
Montgomery Park — which includes the city's second-largest office building and surface and structured parking spread over 18 acres — is already zoned for mixed used. The now-demolished ESCO steel foundry offers another 24 acres, currently zoned for offices, that are considered ripe for redevelopment (or maybe a major league diamond).
But traveling the tracks to completion will cost an estimated $80 million, with some of the money earmarked for purchasing new streetcars and building a maintenance facility.
"This grant award is an acknowledgement that continued investment in Portland Streetcar will allow us to continue to grow while reducing carbon emissions and helping people get where they need to go," said Chris Warner, interim director of the Portland Bureau of Transportation.
Added Commissioner Chloe Eudaly: "As we expand public transit and grow the Central City, we will reduce traffic congestion and provide more opportunities for Portlanders to walk, roll and bike through our public-transit oriented community."
Plambeck says the Montgomery Park expansion could be finished in three years, if state, federal and local partners cough up the dough. The new line would double the frequency of streetcars zipping across the Broadway Bridge to the Rose Quarter and Convention Center.
The grant money, which was formally requested by Metro, will also allow the bureaus of transportation and planning and sustainability to study the Portland Streetcar's next goal: a new terminus at the Hollywood town center.
Potential routes to Northeast Portland include along Broadway and Weidler streets — or taking Irving Street past Benson High School to Sandy Boulevard.