Portland (South/North Corridor)

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South/North Corridor

Portland, Oregon - Vancouver, Washington

(November 1996)


The South/North Corridor project is a bi-state light rail line between the Clackamas Regional Center, Oregon, and Vancouver, Washington. The 20 mile LRT line would connect the Clackamas Regional Center, Milwaukie, Oregon, and the Portland, Oregon, central business district in the southern portion of the corridor, and would serve Vancouver, WA in the northern portion of the corridor.

Capital costs for the South/North LRT project are estimated to be $1.4 billion in 1994 dollars ($2.4 billion in escalated dollars). The project is proposed to be constructed in two segments over the next two authorization periods. The first 12-mile segment, connecting the Clackamas Regional Center to the Rose Quarter is estimated to cost $830 million (1994 dollars) ($1.2 billion in escalated dollars). Metro, Portland's MPO, estimates the full LRT line would carry about 68,000 daily riders in the year 2015.


Congress has amended, in Section 336 of Public Law 104-205, ISTEA's definition of interrelated projects to include the South/North project and has appropriated $6.0 million of Section 5309 New Start funds for FY 1997. Metro has completed the South/North Corridor Major Investment Study which evaluated a range of mode and alignment options for the corridor. In December 1994, the Metro Council in Portland, Oregon, and C-TRAN Board of Directors in Vancouver, Washington, selected light rail as the locally preferred alternative. The project is included in the Metropolitan Transportation Plan for both Portland and Vancouver. FTA approved the initiation of preliminary engineering in April 1996, and Metro expects to complete the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by September 1997.


Mobility Improvements - The South/North LRT would serve the congested I-5 and McLoughlin Boulevard travel markets, improving traffic service levels and providing mobility benefits to major concentrations of transportation disadvantaged persons. Transit travel times would be improved by 33 percent between the Portland CBD and the major activity centers located within the corridor as compared to the TSM. South/North LRT would attract over 30,000 new riders daily and would result in over $2 million in annual travel time savings to existing transit riders compared to the TSM.

Cost Effectiveness - The cost-effectiveness index is $5 per new rider.

Environmental Benefits - The Portland/Vancouver Metropolitan region is currently in non-attainment for both ozone and carbon monoxide. In 2015, the first segment of the South/North LRT would result in the following annual emissions reductions: 58 tons of non-methane hydrocarbons, 549 tons of carbon monoxide, and 118 tons of ozone precursors (nitrogen oxide).

South/North LRT and related land-use densities are a major component of the region's air quality maintenance plan.

Operating Efficiencies - Systemwide operating costs would drop from $1.51 per passenger with the TSM in the South/North Corridor to $1.48 with South/North LRT.


The South-North Project is proposed to be constructed in two segments. The first construction segment is 12 miles connecting Clackamas Regional Center to Rose Quarter, and is estimated to cost $1.2 billion in escalated dollars ($830 million in 1994 dollars). In November 1994, Portland region voters approved a $475 million General Obligation bond for the project. In February 1996, the Oregon legislature approved $375 million for the project, but the State funding package was referred to the voters and rejected in a November 1996 statewide election. Tri-Met is considering funding strategies in the wake of the November 1996 decision, and is developing a revised financing plan.

Based on current information, the capital financing plan is rated "low." Several strategies for closing the potential State/local funding shortfall are under consideration including shortening the minimum operating segment (MOS), developing alternative alignments, and securing additional revenues. Current Tri-Met plans call for $600 million of Section 5309 funds to match current State/local funds for the first construction segment. The stability and reliability of operating funds are rated "low."

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
Federal: Section 5309 New Start $600.00 ($5.96 million appropriated through FY 1997)
State and Local: $600.00
Total: $1,200.00

Note: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions.

Other Factors

Assessment of Land Use Policies and Conditions - This project was among those in the FTA Office of Planning's pilot assessment of land use and conditions (as a pilot for evaluation and rating of transit-supportive land use policies as a new start criteria, beginning in FY 1999). This pilot application is described earlier in this report. Employment in downtown Portland is expected to grow significantly. Mixed use centers exist in this corridor. The Transportation Planning Rule requires cities and counties to change subdivision and development ordinances to promote transit and walking, and calls for a 10 percent reduction in parking and 10 percent less driving per capita over twenty years. Transit supportive land use controls, including growth boundaries to constrain sprawl, are in place in both the Oregon and Washington portions of the Corridor. There are enforceable transit-supportive plans in all jurisdictions along the Corridor, parking controls in Portland, and station area planning activities focusing on the entire Corridor.

Map of a 20-mile LRT line would connect the Clackamas Regional Center, Milwaukie, Oregon, and the Portland, Oregon, central business district in the southern portion of the corridor, and would serve Vancouver, WA in the northern portion of the corridor.