Southwest Corridor light rail route narrowed
Just how the Southwest Corridor light rail line will come into Tigard was recently honed to a preferred Initial Route Proposal that includes the preferred route and placement of light rail stations as the system runs through the city.
The newest document, known as an IRP, was unveiled during a March 12 meeting of the Southwest Corridor Steering Committee, a group consisting of representatives from Metro and TriMet, along with the cities of Tigard, Tualatin, Sherwood, Beaverton, King City, Portland, Durham, Washington County and the Oregon Department of Transportation.
At issue is determining the final 12-mile Southwest Corridor route, anchored at one end near Portland State University, and at the other end at Bridgeport Village in Tualatin. Officials have said the Initial Route Proposal is one of a combination of options that have been suggested by staff from the partners in the project.
"The Southwest Corridor Steering Committee can choose a different combination when they recommend a Locally Preferred Alternative (or LPA) in July," according to Lauren Scott, Tigard's community engagement coordinator. "None of the options under study have been eliminated."
Over the last two years, a total of six alignments have been proposed for the light rail route through Tigard for a project that is could begin in 2022 if all hurdles are cleared. The line is expected to open in 2027.
Plans now are to have a Draft Environmental Impact Statement — which will address such concerns as noise impacts, impacts on affordable housing and businesses, along with traffic and environmental concerns — ready for public input in early May. There will then be a 45-day public comment period.
On March 20, the Tigard City Council held a workshop to discuss the newly released IRP and what the council and staff might want to see changed.
"It's an alignment that may end up being the alignment," said Kenny Asher, Tigard community development director.
One of the issues discussed was the most recent version of the route, which includes moving one previously proposed light rail station away from the downtown Main Street/core area of Tigard, placing it instead south of Hall Boulevard and into the Hunziker Street core area. Hunziker is where the city's major industrial area is located. But modifications are still being discussed as part of a "Through Ash to Railroad" that include modifications to the alignments in an effort to avoid displacing businesses as well as affordable housing, along with having to avoid crossing Hall Boulevard twice, improving travel time for riders and reducing construction costs.
Scott said the modifications in the "Through Ash to Railroad" proposal would:
• Move the train route further north in the Tigard Triangle and place a station on 68th Avenue.
• Move the train route and a station north from Beveland Street to Elmhurst Street
• Move the train route and central Tigard station to the east of Hall Boulevard.
"These modifications are largely conceptual and would need further refinement and study," Scott said.
A total of five stations are planned in Tigard as part of the Southwest Corridor light rail plan.
The new location for the downtown station evoked discussion among some council members during the March 20 work session.
Councilor Marc Woodard said it was discouraging that the light rail likely won't be going into the downtown area.
However, Asher pointed out, "I think we all agree this is the best alignment we have at this point in time."
Council President Jason Snider said he had concerns as well.
"It's going to be hard for me to accept the 'downtownish' station," he said, with Councilor John Goodhouse adding that it's not a stop in the downtown area at all.
"We can't let this go by without a proper stop downtown," Goodhouse added.
Craig Dirksen, the city's former mayor who now sits on the Metro Council and a member of the Southwest Corridor Steering Committee, said he hopes there are changes to the IRP as well but isn't necessarily a fan of the having a stop or station in the downtown core area.
"I want it to serve downtown but I also don't want it to destroy the downtown, what we've already accomplished," he said. "It will serve downtown, it just won't go through the middle of town."
In late summer, the council will be voting to ratify a steering committee's final decision on the preferred route.
Plans are that half of the Southwest Corridor light rail system would be paid for through local funding (not Tigard residents specifically but through a likely regional bond, which would include transportation projects sent to voters in 2020) and half through federal funds.
Asher said Tigard citizens are protected by city charter from having such a fee placed on them by the council without a vote.
"There is no plan for a Tigard vote to fund this plan," he said.