Document Type

Closed Project

Publication Date

Spring 2007


Dundar Kocaoglu

Course Title

Project Management in Engineering and Technology

Course Number

ETM 545/645


In 1999, Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), located in Portland, Oregon, developed a 20-year Master Facilities Plan to address their projected growth. This plan recognized that OHSU's ability to expand at their current location on Marquam Hill was severely restricted due to available real estate at the site, as well as constraints due to traffic congestion. Development just east of Marquam Hill in Portland‘s South Waterfront was identified as the best expansion site, assuming a rapid and reliable transit connection between the campus and the waterfront site could be devised. The two foremost options for this transit system included the construction of an aerial tram or extension of Portland‘s existing streetcar system. A study concluded that OHSU would adopt the aerial tram over the streetcar due to extended travel time and cost associated with a new streetcar route. In April 2005 the Portland City Council approved the funding for the tram at an estimated project cost of $40 million. The primary clients of the new tram were identified as OHSU, the South Waterfront Property Owners, and the general public. The project‘s stakeholders included the Portland Development Council, OHSU, the Portland Department of Transportation, Portland City Council, and Portland Aerial Transportation, Inc. Many engineering, architectural, and construction firms were integral to both the design and final installation of the tram support structures, overhead cables, and tram cars. Since the tram was completed in mid-December 2006 it has recorded higher than expected one-way ridership than first projected. While this may indicate the project was a success, many other project factors gave a different impression. The final cost of $57 million was almost four times the first cost estimate and was $17 million more than the April 2005 estimate. The tram project schedule experienced numerous delays, and did not meet the expected operational need date. Many of the challenges experienced during the tram project can be traced to a poor delineation of responsibility among the many stakeholders, and the fact that those with the most financial responsibility for the project had little or no decision making authority. While the Portland Aerial Tram is a unique and interesting addition to both Portland‘s skyline and transportation portfolio, future projects of this scale should be set up and managed with closer attention to project cost and schedule.


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