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Last Hand of the Game

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

There may be hope for the Portland City Council yet.

After being thoroughly embarrassed by their own lack of due diligence on the OHSU aerial tram, Councilors are now being a bit more skeptical about other transit projects.

For instance, recently some transit activists criticized TriMet’s plan to shut down the Portland transit mall for two years so they can put light rail tracks on the mall, at a cost of $190 million. This will actually reduce the passenger throughput of the mall, and permanently push at least 35 percent of rush hour buses off of Fifth and Sixth Avenues and onto other streets. Because the mall will become less efficient, congestion will increase elsewhere in downtown.

In past years, citizen opposition would have been brushed aside by the City Council, just as it has been ignored by TriMet on this project. But that was before the aerial tram budget exploded by nearly 300 percent. Now, the Council is beginning to question TriMet’s plan, and former Portland Mayor Vera Katz has publicly urged Mayor Tom Potter to undertake a complete review before final funding documents are signed with the federal government next month.

TriMet says the mall project is a done deal and it’s too late for any changes, but that’s just a scare tactic.

It’s time to call TriMet’s bluff. With $190 million on the table, how can the City Council walk away now?

John A. Charles, Jr. is president and CEO at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon based think tank.

© 2006, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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