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Officials cautious about Tigard vote results

Elected officials in the region reacted cautiously to the apparent passage of a Tigard ballot measure that could block the Southwest Corridor Plan on Tuesday.

By Wednesday afternoon, Ballot Measure 34-210 was leading by 220 votes out of the 9,917 that had been counted. It would put Tigard on record against a new high capacity transit line — a key feature of the plan — and require another public vote before one could be built.

Development of the plan is being coordinated by Metro, the elected regional government, with the cooperation of other governments in the southwest part of the region, including Portland, Tigard and Tualatin. It is intended to reduce congestion and encourage planned development in the corridor between the three cities.

Metro Council Craig Dirksen said the election was still "too close to call" early Wednesday morning. Dirksen, a former Tigard mayor, said the results probably will not be final until Friday. He promised the will of the voters will be respected however it turns out.

"Regardless of which way it goes, congestion will still be a problem and the partners working on the plan will still be committed to doing something to relieve it," Dirksen said.

Dirksen said passage of the measure will affect future planning for the Southwest Corridor, but it is too early to know exactly how.

"The partners will have to meet and discuss it, and we'll have to talk to legal counsel, too," Dirksen said.

A little more than 36 percent of Tigard voters cast ballots in the March 11 Special Election. Dirksen said that was a good turnout for a special election, especially considering only around 30 percent of Washington County voters cast ballots in the 2012 May Primary Election.

Portland City Commission Steve Novick, who supports the plan, says the timing raises questions about whether the results really reflect the will of all Tigard voters, however. He noted that results can even change dramatically between regular primary and general elections. For example, Novick noted, former state Rep. Mary Nolan got almost as many votes as City Commissioner Amanda Fritz in the 2012 Primary Election and forced her into a run off in that year's General Election. Fritz easily defeated Nolan when it was held.

"Given that the electorate in a low-turnout special election is generally more conservative than in a general election, I'm certain that if it were on a November ballot, the 'no' side would have won handily. But I need to talk to my colleagues about where we go from here," Novick said.