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Wilsonville grapples with the complexity of 'Climate Smart'

Metro Council is aiming to adopt a regional plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the year


by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Wilsonvilles South Metro Area Regional Transit agency puts the city in a unique position regionally when it comes to transportation. Now city officials hopes that is the case when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks. The time is quickly approaching for the Portland metro area to adopt a regional plan to comply with state legislation, mandating reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Metro’s Climate Smart Communities Scenarios Project is the regional government’s response to Senate Bill 1059, which was passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2009, in large part to help curb emissions statewide caused by light trucks and automobiles. In general, SB 1059 calls for a 20 percent reduction in emissions by 2035 starting from 2005 baseline standards.

Now, cities across the tri-county metro area are locked in debate over how best to achieve that goal in the face of widely disparate interests, resources and needs. At the same time, everyone involved is quickly running up against a December 2014 deadline for the Metro Council to pass a comprehensive policy that meets everyone’s needs.

“We’re reaching a point where we need a call to action,” Wilsonville Community Development Director Nancy Kraushaar told the Wilsonville City Council at a May 5 work session. She admitted this could be easier said than done.

Cities have worked with metro staff over the past several years, already whittling down options in order to present the public with a range of palatable choices. In the end, though, none of the three final choices presented to councilors Monday will come without cost.

With a rough estimated cost of $6 billion over the next 20 years, Scenario A is the least costly, as it relies almost entirely on recent trends and does not call for increased funding. That, however, would only produce a 12 percent reduction in emissions by 2035, Kraushaar said.

Scenario B would implement adopted plans in Wilsonville and other cities that already are on the books but may not have been fully carried out because of a lack of resources. It includes full implementation of Metro’s Regional Transport Plan and would carry a projected price tag of some $17 billion.

Finally, Scenario C would call for additional investment above and beyond what already is planned. With a projected cost in 2014 dollars of some $31 billion, it is by far the most expensive but would achieve the greatest reduction in emissions.

The good news, Kraushaar said, is that existing policies already are working to stem emissions, albeit more slowly than state legislation calls for.

“Any of these where we do what we’re supposed to, or more, obviously will lead to cleaner air and water, improve public health and reduce congestion and delay with good travel options,” she said. “And it will help build a strong regional economy with all the activities that go into this.”

Further complicating matters, planning on the project done to date has identified seven key questions that need to be answered by metro communities in order to formulate an effective policy that meets the needs of each city:

n How much transit should we provide by 2035?

n How much should we use technology to actively manage the transportation system by 2035?

n How much should we expand the reach of travel information programs by 2035?

n How much of the planned active transportation network should we complete by 2035?

n How much of the planned street and highway network should we complete by 2035?

n How should local communities manage parking by 2035?

n How should we pay for our investment choices by 2035?

In the near future, the Metro Policy Advisory Committee (MPAC) and the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation (JPACT) will review jointly the various options at a May 30 meeting. Final public review will come in September, allowing the Metro Council to act before the end of the year.

The trick will be in crafting a final policy that allows different cities to adopt rules and policies that best fit their demographics, geography and existing transportation infrastructure.

“It’s been marching orders from the beginning,” Kraushaar said, “that different jurisdictions did not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach, that different communities could select things that relate to their own community values.”

What that means in policy terms remains vague. For Wilsonville, which operates its own regional transit agency, it could mean an increased reliance on public transportation. In other areas it could mean making greater use of technology to manage existing transportation systems.

“We need to have a range of choices for the different communities,” Mayor Tim Knapp said, “to pick from what works the best so it isn’t all done from one or two viewpoints and Wilsonville and Gladstone and Beaverton are all expected to be exactly the same.”

At the same time, with a rash of voices now competing to be heard in the run up to the Metro Council’s final decision, there are no guarantees for anyone.

“There are a lot of people pitching for their different viewpoints,” Councilor Julie Fitzgerald said. “Is there a way to come up with ‘a top three, but we’re okay with four if we can't have that?’”

“It’s not even that direct,” Knapp responded. “Our input will go with Gladstone’s, Milwaukie’s and Oregon City, and one person will be trying to represent all of that.”

For more information, visit Metro's Climate Smart Communities website: oregonmetro.gov/climatescenarios.



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