With ballot measure looming, city OKs plans to study transit options

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Tigard Mayor John L. Cook explain plans for a proposed high capacity transit line through Portland, Tigard and Tualatin at a town hall Sept. 31. The City Council approved a plan to continue studying the project at its Tuesday meeting.The Tigard City Council has endorsed plans that could bring a MAX light-rail line to town in the next several years.

At its meeting Tuesday night, city councilors officially endorsed the Southwest Corridor Plan, a years-long project by Metro, TriMet and area cities that plans to bring either a light-rail line or bus rapid transit system to Tigard, Tualatin and Portland, as well as plan for growth in the areas over the next several years.

There was little discussion before the unanimous vote.

“I think this has been discussed ad nauseum,” said City Councilor Jason Snider.

The endorsement comes amid a fight between the city and a group of residents against any form of high-capacity transit coming to town.

That group successfully put a ballot measure in the upcoming special election in March, calling for the city to officially oppose any new high-capacity transit without a vote of the people.

Current plans would bring some form of high-capacity transit through Tigard, either down Hall Boulevard or Southwest 72nd Avenue.

But much of the project — where stops would be, or even what type of transit line would be built — will be studied for years.

City officials said at a public town hall last week that the measure would effectively keep the city from even studying the project.

Voters overwhelmingly approved a similar, but less restrictive, measure last year, which calls for a vote before taxes or fees can be raised for construction of a MAX light-rail line.

The council made a point of addressing the March ballot measure at Tuesday’s meeting. Mayor John L. Cook said endorsing the Southwest Corridor Plan had no bearing on the measure or what voters will decide.

The city’s endorsement allows the city to continue to research the plan, said Judith Gray, the city’s senior transportation planner.

“This endorsement won’t change policies or plans. It doesn’t commit any funds or commit any transportation projects,” she said.

Cook said people in town had asked him about the endorsement and its impact on the ballot measure.

The endorsement allows the city to continue studying the two transit options — light rail and bus rapid transit — and helps to plan for service enhancements to the city, Gray said.

“This informs work that we are doing with planning the Tigard Triangle,” she said.

For the city, this was little more than housekeeping, to make sure things stay on track with the project, Cook said.

“This says, ‘Let’s keep the partnership together and keep moving forward,’” Gray added.

Several cities in the Southwest Corridor Plan have already formally endorsed the project, including Sherwood, King City and Durham. Portland and Tualatin are expected to take up the matter next week.

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