The priority expansion for Portland Streetcar Inc. to Montgomery Park in Northwest Portland may take shape thanks to a $1-million federal grant awarded at the end of 2018. 

The Federal Transit Authority has jumpstarted planning on a proposed 2.3-mile route of new track for the Portland Streetcar in Slabtown with a termination near the city’s second-largest office building in Montgomery Park. 

Running in a loop along northwest 18th and 19th avenues and then west at York and Wilson streets, the planned new $80-million streetcar line will move into an area zoned for offices and mixed-use. The plan will increase frequency of cars running across the Broadway Bridge toward the Rose Quarter and Convention Center. While moving through 24 acres of land poised for redevelopment, a spur to northwest 27th Avenue brings the line close to Macleay Park and has the potential to bring riders near the city’s largest green space, Forest Park. The line would also run through the 22-acre industrial ESCO site recently sold to a Scotland-based company. 

While the $1-million grant helps get planning and studies started even as Portland Streetcar considers a $70-million expansion to Hollywood town center in northeast Portland, Portland Streetcar will still need additional money from state, federal and local partners to get the Montgomery Park expansion completed in three years. 

Portland Streetcar, a nonprofit owned by the city and run by Portland Streetcar Inc., works with TriMet and the city, while run by a board of directors. The streetcar was born in 2001 as a way to boost economic development by getting reliable service into new areas of downtown Portland, and the program's ridership rivals parts of the MAX light rail line with 16,000 riders daily. 

Still, though, questions have been posed in Portland about the legitimacy of building a more robust streetcar line as a staple of the local transportation system. As expansions near, questions continue about if streetcar lines will make bus lines moot and if there is some duplication of services with TriMet. 

Even with the lingering discussion about if the Portland Streetcar is a development tool or a consistent source of transportation for riders—studies show Portland hits the mark in both areas—the Montgomery Park expansion has started to come into view. 

In a statement on the future of the Portland Streetcar, Commissioner Chloe Eudaly said the grant would allow Portland to “set an example for the nation in reducing carbon emissions as we grow our economy and address the housing crisis.”

Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter at @tdnewcomb