Collisions with traffic have broken Portland Streetcar front windshields three times this year—more than in the previous 12 years of the streetcar's operation combined.
"There's something in the water this year," says Rick Gustafson, president of Portland Streetcar Inc., the nonprofit that manages the streetcar.
Since the Portland Streetcar debuted in 2001, only one front windshield had been damaged in a crash before this year.
The increase in cracked windshields—and another three side panels damaged this year—follows the streetcar's 3.3-mile eastside extension last September. But Gustafson says the uptick in accidents has occurred on both sides of the Willamette River.
In each accident, Gustafson says, cars or trucks ran into the streetcar. "All of our accidents this year were what we call not preventable," he says. "Somebody else's fault."
The most famous of these accidents—a tractor-trailer plowing into the streetcar on Southeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in April—required a crane to remove the damaged streetcar from its tracks.
Each windshield costs $2,347 to replace and takes the streetcar out of service for five days.
"They're shockingly expensive," says Gustafson. "The side ones are better, but they're still shockingly expensive. But they're almost all covered by insurance."