The Portland Development Commission is ready to kick down more than $1 million it's promised the city's transportation bureau to help unclog a streetcar bottleneck near Portland State University—in part by tapping revenue from a controversial urban renewal district near the school, according to documents (pdf) reviewed by the Mercury.

But in a shift—hashed out this fall amid some major questions about the future of urban renewal in Portland—the PDC has found a way to fund the work without preventing Mayor Charlie Hales from rolling back or canceling the Portland State urban renewal district as part of a restructuring proposal expected to be refined later this year.

Instead of borrowing money against future tax revenue raised in the city's so-called "Education URA," a decision that would prevent the PDC from shutting year-old urban renewal area early, the PDC has proposed spending some of the tax revenue it's already collected and put in the bank.

"It allows us to leave all options open," says Lisa Abuaf, the PDC's central city manager.

The agreement heads before the PDC's board for a vote this Thursday. Hales had already told the PDC it needed to pay the money it promised. If the PDC didn't find the money, the $3.8 million project—adding a second track to the only remaining single-track segment of the streetcar system—would have been in jeopardy. State grant money obtained by the Portland Bureau of Transportation to pay for much of the work would have expired.

In total, PDC is pitching in a little more than $1.5 million, with just over $1.2 million coming from the PSU district.


Officials are keen to have the streetcar work start before the new light-rail bridge over the Willamette opens. With the chokepoint in place, requiring trains in opposite directions to take turns sharing a track near SW 4th and Montgomery, the entire streetcar loop would face delays and travel times more interminable than they already are.