Commitment to Accessibility: DOT is committed to ensuring that information is available in appropriate alternative formats to meet the requirements of persons who have a disability. If you require an alternative version of files provided on this page, please contact

Portland, Oregon/South-North Corridor

View printer friendly version

Portland (South-North Corridor)

Portland, Oregon

(November 1998)


A 16-mile South-North Light Rail Transit (LRT) line is being proposed by the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (Tri-Met) to connect the Clackamas Regional Center, the Portland Central Business District (CBD) and North Portland. Transfers to the 33-mile east/west line will be possible on both sides of the Willamette River. A future phase of the project will connect to Vancouver, Washington.

The South-North project is proposed to be constructed in two segments. The 12-mile, minimum operable segment (MOS), connects the Clackamas Regional Center, downtown Portland, and the Rose Quarter and is estimated to cost $1.2 billion in year of expenditure (YOE) dollars. The second segment is a four-mile extension to North Portland. The cost for the extension is estimated to be $425 million in escalated dollars.

Portland South-North Corridor Summary Description

Proposed Project Light Rail Line (MOS-1);
12 miles, 20 stations
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $1,186.3 million
Section 5309 Share ($YOE) $636.3 million
Annual Operating Cost ($1997) $18.3 million (Clackamas to Kenton)
Ridership Forecast (2020) 42,700 average daily boardings
30,700 daily new riders
FY 2000 Financial Rating: Low-Medium
FY 2000 Project Justification Rating: Medium-High
FY 2000 Overall Project Rating: Not Recommended

The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1998. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.


The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) approved the initiation of preliminary engineering on the South-North LRT project in April 1996. In February 1998, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement was completed. The Final Environmental Impact Statement is scheduled for publication in April 1999. The project is included in the Metropolitan Transportation Plan for both Portland and Vancouver.

In November 1998, voters rejected an affirmation of a $475 million General Obligation bond measure previously approved to fund construction of the South-North LRT. Tri-Met is currently evaluating alternative funding strategies to implement the system.

TEA-21 Section 3030(a)(66) authorizes the Portland South-North Corridor LRT project for final design and construction. TEA-21 Section 3030(c)(1)(A)(xxxvii) makes available $25 million in Section 5309 funding for the Portland South-North Corridor LRT. Through FY 1999, Congress has appropriated $ 9.0 million in Section 5309 New Start funds for the project.


The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTAís Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. Most of the criteria are presented for the proposed 16-mile South/North LRT. Assessments and ratings of the Land Use and Financial criteria are based on the 12-mile MOS.


Mobility Improvements

Rating: Medium

Tri-Met estimates the following travel time savings for the LRT project, compared to the No-Build and TSM alternatives.

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours) 4.8 million 1.7 million

Based on 1990 U.S. Census data, there are an estimated 5,492 low-income households within a ½ mile radius of the proposed 20 stations, representing 19.4 percent of all households within the corridor.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: Medium

The Portland/Vancouver Metropolitan region is currently in attainment for both ozone and carbon monoxide. South-North LRT and related land use densities are a major component of the regionís air quality maintenance plan. N/A indicates that data are unavailable for this specific measure.

Criteria Pollutant New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Carbon Monoxide (CO) decrease of 424 annual tons decrease of 269 annual tons
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) decrease of 113 annual tons decrease of 45 annual tons
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) decrease of 48 annual tons decrease of 32 annual tons
Particulate Matter (PM10) N/A N/A
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) decrease of 4,884 annual tons decrease of 6,792 annual tons

Tri-Met estimates that the South-North LRT would result in the following reductions in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units -- BTU).

Annual Energy Savings New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
BTU (millions) decrease of 61,950 million annual BTU decrease of 75,677 million annual BTU

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Medium

Metro estimates an increase in the systemwide operating cost per passenger mile compared to the No Build scenario and a decrease compared to the Transportation System Management (TSM) alternative.

Operating Efficiencies No-Build TSM New Start
System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (2020) $0.42 $0.46 $0.43

Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1997 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Medium-High

Metro estimates the following cost effectiveness indices.

Cost Effectiveness New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger (1997) $8.25 $10.18

Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1997 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: High

The High land use rating reflects the range of high density trip generators in the corridor. These include the Portland CBD and several Regional and Town Centers, which Metro, the regionís Metropolitan Planning Organization, designates as locations for high density commercial and residential activity. Several other high trip generators within the corridor include two clusters of medical facilities, Portland State University, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, the Rose Garden Arena, the Oregon Convention Center, and the Portland Metropolitan Exposition Center. Regionally, approximately two-thirds of jobs and 40 percent of households are planned to be in existing centers of development and along corridors served by bus and light rail.

The Oregon Transportation Planning Rule requires local jurisdictions to establish subdivision and development ordinances which promote transit and walking, and requires a 10 percent reduction in both parking and driving per capita over twenty years. Transit supportive land use controls, including growth boundaries to constrain sprawl, are in place in both the Washington and Oregon portions of the corridor. There are transit supportive plans and station area planning activities in all jurisdictions along the corridor. The Urban Growth Management Functional Plan, which relies on maximum parking ratios to encourage compact development, is a specific example of transit supportive activity.

In May 1995, FTA awarded Tri-Met a $1.6 million Livable Communities Initiative grant for the Sunnyside Village Project. The funds were used to design and construct a transit plaza and other features as part of a mixed use, neotraditional land development. The Village is located on the Southeast edge of the South-North LRT Corridor.

Other Factors

Light Rail to the Portland International Airport: The City, Port, and Tri-Met entered into a formal public/private funding agreement with Bechtel, Inc. to extend the existing LRT system six miles to the airport by Fall 2001. The $125 million design-build project requires no Federal funding and is currently in Final Design.

Project Management Capabilities and Experience: During the past two decades the region has completed nearly $1.5 billion of light rail construction on time and within budget. Since September 1998, the Westside-Hillsboro project has been operating and serving more riders than projected.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 47%

The Tri-Met financial plan proposes $636.3 million (53 percent) in Section 5309 New Start funds, and $550 million (47 percent) in State, local, and Federal flexible funds for the project.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Low

This Low rating reflects the lack of committed non-Federal funds for the project. In November 1994, Portland region voters approved a $475 million General Obligation (GO) bond measure for the project. Voters did not re-approve the GO bonds in a November 1998 referendum. Tri-Met is re-examining project financing alternatives, such as segmenting the project into shorter interim operating segments and developing a revised financial plan. Clackamas County has committed $10 million in tax-increment financing charges to the MOS-1 project. Flexible funds (STP) are still committed to the project.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High operating financing plan rating reflects Tri-Metís stable operating revenue stream. The projected operating cash flow analysis indicates an ability to maintain service with the expansion of the transit system. The future growth rate of 6.6 percent for employer payroll tax proceeds - the source of 63.7 percent of operating revenue - appears realistic and conservative given historical trends and the regional economic outlook. Projected farebox recovery ratios are comparable to ratios for the existing Eastside MAX (Metropolitan Area Express) LRT service (projected 30 percent compared to 35 percent for Eastside service). The combination of the projected growth rate of the employer payroll tax and the farebox recovery ratio would support the annual operating cost of $18.3 million for the Clackamas to Kenton segment. The loss of the GO bond measure in November 1998 does not affect the operations and maintenance financial plan.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan (MOS-1)

(Reported in $YOE)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
Appropriations to Date
Section 5309 New Starts $636.30 $9.00 million appropriated through FY 1999
STP Funds $55.00

G.O. Bonds $475.00

Tri-Met Funds $10.00

Regional Compact $10.00

Total: $1,186.30

Note: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.

[Portland South-North Corridor Map (PDF)]

Commitment to Accessibility: DOT is committed to ensuring that information is available in appropriate alternative formats to meet the requirements of persons who have a disability. If you require an alternative version of files provided on this page, please contact