It’s only relatively recently that I’ve made a concerted effort to take rail photos (and nowadays it’s usually the result of seeing something and thinking “this would be a good thing to write about”). But I used to just take pictures when I happened to think of it and had a camera with me, and now in retrospect I wish I’d gotten a lot more pictures during past rail construction projects- Interstate, the transit mall, the I-205 tie-in at Gateway, etc. So I figured I’d make it a point to take pictures of Milwaukie/Orange Line related work.
I decided to start with Lincoln Street.
SW Lincoln Street has achieved a certain level of notoriety of late, due to plans to remove 50-60 of the trees lining Lincoln, which is pretty shocking for tree-hugging Portland. John Charles of the Cascade Policy Institute took up this cause recently, which is unsurprising considering CPI’s anti-public transit stance, though admittedly it was a well-executed move for them as they want to drum up opposition to the Orange Line. As an overall rule, we love public transit in Portland so CPI never got much of a following for being against the Orange Line in general, but they rallied quite a bit of support in their opposition to cutting down the trees on Lincoln. Know how to play to your audience, I suppose.
The street was quiet save a few pedestrians when I was out there, so I don’t know if these were CPI signs or if anyone else had protested here
On a personal level, I feel strange agreeing with CPI on something. I mean, I don’t know John Charles, and he doesn’t know me, but I’m pretty sure based on his speeches and writings that we would not get along (e.g. he feels operator benefits are gratuitous; meanwhile as long as my friends and coworkers keep dying from job-related illnesses before the age of 60, I am going to disagree with him that operator health benefits are overly generous.) Still, à la “even a broken clock is right twice a day”, I agree with his apprehension at clearing out all of the trees on Lincoln. No, Lincoln isn’t exactly on par with the Park Blocks, but clearing out 60 trees is still pretty significant. On top of that I still have a hard time reconciling TriMet’s capital project spending when operations and maintenance are taking such severe cuts because of no money, so I’m not personally excited about this particular project.
While walking up and down Lincoln, I made the assumption that trees with a painted white dot and the green/black ties were tagged for removal. One thing that CPI didn’t mention is that TriMet will be replacing some of these trees as part of the rail project. According to the Oregonian, these are all London Plane trees currently on Lincoln, and evidently TriMet wants to avoid a “monoculture of one tree species” when replacing them. The Oregonian lists the new varieties of trees that were selected and provided a statement from TriMet as to why those new varieties were chosen (including that they are drought resistant… was that really a concern for Portland?) Personally, at no point have I ever thought that Lincoln would be better if only the trees were more varied, but then again, I’m no arborist.
Even though the London Plane trees are going to be replaced, I doubt the new Lincoln Street is going to have the same leafy overhang of the current one. Leaves and rail are not friends, so intentionally planting trees that will drop their leaves directly in the ROW isn’t going to work, and I’m assuming that’s been taken into consideration.
Picture of streetcar tracks from last fall, being cleaned of leaf debris
From an operational perspective, I think a bigger concern than making sure the trees are drought resistant is planning how to mitigate the slippery rail/leaf problem. I admit I haven’t gone to any of the open houses or public meetings so I don’t know if it has come up, or if by design the trees will overhang just sidewalks or bike paths and be clear of the ROW altogether. This just sticks out to me as a safety hazard since leaves can potentially impair a train’s braking ability, lift a train’s wheel out of the track, or form an insulating barrier in the rail that can make the train become undetected in that circuit.
Borrowed photo – Lincoln Street is apparently going to have track like this
On a related note, I’m interested to see how the vegetated track is going to play out. I don’t think these are very common in the US – all of the pictures I can find are European. It looks like girder rail running through there in several of the linked pictures (as opposed to something like the embedded t-rail on Interstate), which I think is interesting – I would have guessed that surrounding girder rail with grass/leaves would make it more likely to fill the groove in the rail with debris, such as when cutting the grass. I’m assuming that Lincoln is going to have girder rail since that’s what’s used in downtown and other low-speed areas (it’s cheaper than t-rail and generally effective for low speeds) so I’m curious to see how this is going to work. And I really, really hope people don’t take the grassy track as an invitation to walk on it…
Anyway, back to Lincoln… I noticed a couple of things that seemed strange – first was this pedestrian path and the trees that were marked for removal back here. I’m assuming this is where the platform is going to be. I can’t figure any other reason why trees situated fairly far back from Lincoln would be cleared out, or why the pavement is marked the way it is.
The other thing was how the pavement here in this pedestrian path off of SW 4th just south of SW College was also marked up. I guess this is where the ROW is going to go from the Jackson turnaround? If that’s the case, I’m not sure of the path it’s going to take because there’s not a lot of space between buildings at the eastern end of this path, and it didn’t look like the trees near where this joins Lincoln were slated for removal.
Anyway, I wasn’t really going anywhere in particular with this post, just documenting some pictures of Lincoln pre-construction. If I have time on my days off I’d like to add some during-construction and completion pictures.
SW Lincoln Street, mid-September 2011