By Monique Gaskins
If any city’s residents stick around for a while, they are likely to witness some sort of transformation. During Portland’s history, the city’s boundaries have physically changed, absorbing neighboring cities, like Albina, into the fold. Portland’s demographics and key industries have also shifted over the years. In previous versions of Portland, residents realized that some forms of transportation were better suited for the growing city than others and invested in transforming to new transport modes. Vestiges of these changes remain visible; some houses in Eliot have horse tethering rings anchored to the curb, evidence of the early 1900s, when deliveries were made with horse and wagon instead of by truck.
Mo Badreddine, a Portland-area local from birth and the driving force behind the Albina Rail Yard Relocation Project, hopes that Portlanders are at the cusp of another change. Badreddine is encouraging communities to ask Union Pacific to relocate its railroad infrastructure out of the center of the city. Badreddine believes that a new location for the railroad will benefit Union Pacific and Portlanders through improved operational efficiency, decreased traffic interference, and lower pollution. In addition, if Union Pacific were to relocate from Albina, they would vacate 215 acres of riverfront property. With development funds and community input, the former rail yard could be reimagined as mix of housing, shopping, parks, and public spaces contributing to Portland’s overall attractiveness and livability.
With increasing pressures on air quality from projects such as the Oregon Department of Transportation’s proposed Interstate 5 expansion and high traffic through the Central Eastside, any project looking to decrease pollution is worth exploration. Along with cleaner air, relocating the railroad infrastructure would improve access to other parts of Portland, and provide an economic boost through new shops, restaurants, and jobs. With this in mind, below you will find an interview with Mo Badreddine on the importance of the relocation project and how you can help.
What are your goals for the Albina Rail Relocation Project? Ultimately, our goal is to create a new path for Union Pacific that will increase the railroad’s operational efficiency, alleviate operational, safety, and environmental concerns for the public, while also retaining the economic benefits of UP’s railroad service to our community. In addition to that, I think we can redevelop the site(s) into a more communal and meaningful space where, housing, transit, art, health, science, and wildlife all coexist.
How did you get involved with the project? My curiosity and passion for large-scale infill redevelopment stumbled me into Homer [Williams]’s office many-a-years ago, and like many, I’m a product of my environment. Homer’s efforts are focused on getting people off the streets with his non-profit, Oregon Harbor of Hope, so Portland is incalculably lucky to have him. (oregonharborofhope.org)
What do you want Eliot neighborhood residents to know about the project? Probably the same thing we’ve been telling everyone: we’re not crazy. Rail relocation is not a new solution — rather, it is one that has proven to be effective and necessary given the right conditions. It is happening all throughout the United States, in big and small markets alike: Memphis, Burlington, Boston, Nashville, San Gabriel, Lafayette (IN), Reno, Chicago, LA, and Salt Lake City, are among the cities that are planning or have taken steps to move their rail facilities from urban core to outlying areas. I encourage you to think big, to think as big as you possibly can because this is a generational opportunity for every individual, motorist, cyclist and organization, living near or commuting through the CEIC (Central Eastside Industrial District).
What’s the status of funding for the study? We’re a little more than $5,000 short (of reaching our $25,000 goal), which is incredible. When we raise the remaining amount, the community will be able to say that this is a community funded & driven effort and ultimately, get to be a stakeholder throughout the decision-making process.
What can individual residents do to get involved with the project? Every dollar helps. With your assistance, we can let the creative engineers explore the possibilities of moving the Albina & Brooklyn intermodal facilities. Donations are being accepted online at https://