Thursday, July 8, 2010

A closer look at southern downtown Portland

Today,  the DHT takes a closer look at the southern region of downtown Portland, and surrounding neighborhoods.  It's an area which is being branded the "Innovation Quadrant" by city officials, and which is key to the region's mobility.  Roughly, the area is bounded by the Hawthorne/Madison couplet to the north; by I-450 and the West Hills to the West, by Holgate (and its westward extension) on the south, and by the UPRR tracks and SE 20th or so on the east.

The Innovation Quadrant (a name I dislike, but we'll go with it) is presently well-served with transport infrastructure.  Highways in the area include I-5 and I-405, US26, and state routes 99W/10, 99E, and 43.  Three bridges presently cross the Willamette in the region--the Ross Island, Marquam, and Hawthorne.  The MAX Yellow and Green Lines terminate at PSU, and the Portland Sreetcar runs through the region.  Numerous frequent bus lines (4, 6, 8, 9, 12, 14, 33, and 54/56) serve the area.  The Center Street bus depot is in the southeast corner.  The UPRR mainline, the Oregon Pacific ("Samtrak") branchline, and the Jefferson Branch line all pass through the area, as do numerous trails (the Vera Katz Esplanade, the Springwater Corridor).  Oh, and the Willamette River itself. 

Major destinations in the area include OHSU (both the Marquam Hill and Waterfront campuses), the other hospitals in the Marquam Hill complex, Portland State University, OMSI, numerous other cultural institutions, Portland City Hall, and the Portland Building.

Projects in the works

Numerous transportation projects are presently planned for the area, or are in the works.  A rebuild of the OR99E viaduct east of OMSI is scheduled for completion next year, as is the Eastside Streetcar Loop project between the Pearl District and OMSI.  In 2012, three "Innovation Quadrant" projects, in support of the Streetcar, will be complete.  Longer term projects include Milwaukie MAX and the Lake Oswego Transit project; and Barbur Boulevard and Powell Boulevard have been identified for rapid transit corridors in the future.  Outside the area under consideration, but important, is the project to replace the Sellwood Bridge (the replacement bridge is planned to have Streetcar tracks, to accomodate Streetcar service to the Sellwood neighborhood).

By far, the most important project planned for completion in the next decade in the area is Milwaukie MAX.  We have blogged about it before, focusing on the financing and the portion of the line running parallel to OR99E.  But the proposed "Caruthers crossing", a new "green bridge" between the Marquam and Ross Island bridges, linking the South Waterfront district to OMSI, is a key piece of infrastructure for reasons beyond light rail.

The new bridge

The new bridge will include facilities for transit--light rail, busses, and streetcar (which will operate in two shared lanes, one in each direction)--as well as for pedestrians and bicyclists.  Private autos will not be permitted to use the bridge.  On each end of the bridge (at SW Moody, and adjacent to OMSI) will be combined light-rail and bus stops (the Streetcar will have its own stops nearby on both sides).  On the west side of the river, MAX will continue north along a viaduct adjacent to SW Moody, cross Naito Parkway at grade and head west on SW Lincoln, until reaching the current end of the Yellow and Green lines at PSU.  On the other end of the bridge, MAX will continue east until it reaches the UPRR tracks, head parallel to the railroad, cross Powell on a new structure, and run down SE 17th.  When the new bridge is complete, the Eastside Streetcar Loop will really become a loop. 

Several of the frequent service lines serving the area currently cross on the Ross Island or Hawthorne bridges, but will likely switch to the new Caruthers bridge for faster service to downtown.  (The 4, 9, and 33 are obvious candidates); many non-frequent routes will likely also benefit.  In addition, busses running between the Transit Mall and the City Center garage will be able to use the new bridge instead of the Ross Island bridge, potentially saving time if the latter is jammed. 

Ponies, and future enhancements

While the transit improvements in the area are laudable, a few other things come to mind:
  • It would be nice were a continuous bi-modal (bus/rail) transitway to exist from the current transit mall, to the Caruthers bridge (and across), all the way to Powell and SE 17th.  Light rail will operate in its own right-of-way, of course, but busses will need to use surface streets east of OMSI to reach Powell or 17th.  On the other end of the bridge, it appears that the "Harbor Drive structure" connecting the bridge to SW Lincoln will be rail only, meaning busses will have to use Moody to Harbor to Clay/Market to reach the Transit Mall.  This will especially become important if Bus Rapid Transit is selected for the Powell or Barbur corridors in the future.
  • Even more in the "I want a pony" category:  Given that two lanes of OR99E are now getting streetcar tracks (albeit mixed traffic); it Would Be Nice were these turned into a transitway as well (no private cars).  Unfortunately, there is a parking lane next to the streetcar tracks in many places, and ODOT has little interest in turning over any lanes on MLK or Grand into exclusive-transit lanes.  (And , businesses and such along neighboring streets aren't terribly interested in having them turn from local collectors into major thoroughfares, whether for cars, busses, or trains).
  • Burying the UPRR mainline would be nice--starting at the northern edge of the Brooklyn Yard.  (So would burying I-5; both of these are a long ways off, of course).  Likewise, a connection between the UPRR mainline across 99E to the industrial site presently served by the Oregon Pacific line would permit that right-of-way to be used for something better in the future.  (Other than Oaks Park and Sellwood, the line doesn't serve any important destinations.
  • A way for MAX trains to move between the westside line and the new Caruthers bridge (besides crossing the Steele and doubling back) would be beneficial, especially if the future Powell LRT line happens to be light rail.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Keep it clean, please