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The 15-mile project between Portland and Gresham will be TriMet's first bus rapid transit line

COURTESY TRIMET - An example of the enhanced stations that will be built along Division between Portland and Gresham.TriMet officially kicked off construction of the Division Transit Project with a press conference including federal, state, regional and local officials on Thursday, Jan. 23.

The 15-mile project along Division Street is TriMet's first bus rapid transit project. It is intended to speed bus service, increase ridership, enhance safety, and encourage redevelopment between Portland and Gresham. Line 2-Division is already one TriMet's busiest transit lines, with more than 9,100 rides a day.

According to TriMet, the completed project will reduce travel times up to 20%, with buses running every 12 minutes and even more often during peak ridership times.

At the press conference, TriMet was officially awarded $87.4 million from the Federal Transit Administration by its acting administrator, K. Jane Williams. That amounts to half the roughly $175 million total project costs. The other half is being paid for TriMet, Portland, Gresham, Metro, Multnomah County, and the Oregon Department of Transportation."The Division Transit Project will provide fast and efficient service, improving mobility and access to convenient transit service."

"FTA is proud to join our partners in Oregon to improve public transportation in Portland. The Division Transit Project will provide fast and efficient service, improving mobility and access to convenient transit service," said Williams.

"We thank the Acting Administrator Williams, the FTA and U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao for their support of transit in the Portland metro area and the Oregon Congressional Delegation who have consistently worked for investments that connect Oregonians to jobs, education and opportunity," said TriMet General Manager Doug Kelsey.

"With this project, Portland is further cementing its legacy as one of the nation's most livable communities. It is critical that the federal government continues to support projects that provide access for underserved communities," said Oregon's U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer.

The press conference took place at TriMet's project fieled office, located at Southeast 150th and Division. Others officials present included Metro Council President Lynn Peterson, Portland Transportation Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, Gresham City Councilor Karylinn Echols, and members of the Metro Council and TriMet board of directors.

The alignment runs from the Irving & 5th station in downtown Portland to the Cleveland Park & Ride in Gresham. It crosses the Willamette River in Portland over the Tilikum Crossing Bridge.

Metro began planning for the project in 2014 by convening a project Steering Committee and holding a series of public open houses and meetings. The plan was unanimously approved by the cities of Gresham and Portland, the Multnomah County Commission and the TriMet Board of Directors. Metro transferred project leadership to TriMet on Dec. 20, 2016.

The project has undergone many changes since it was first proposed. The inner Portland portion was originally going to run along Southeast Powell Boulevard to Southeast 82nd Avenue, where it would run to Division to reach Gresham. The Powell alingment was dropped, however, after Trimet determined it would not reduce travel times.

The line was also originally intended to reach Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham. The connection to the Cleveland Park & Ride was dropped, however, after TriMet decided it needed to cap the budget at $175 million to have the best chance for qualifying for federal funds.

Construction will formally begin in coming weeks, as TriMet celebrates its 50th year of operations. The new service is expected to begin in Fall 2022. It will feature 60-foot articulated buses, fewer but larger stations to allow multiple-door boarding with lighting and weather protection, upgraded traffic signals with transit priority, some 4.5 miles of protected bike lanes, nearly 81,000 square feet of new sidewalks, and 20 new marked crosswalks with stop lights, median islands or flashing lights.

TriMet said the project will create more than 1,400 jobs, including 650 construction jobs and more than 780 indirect and induced jobs, and add more than $137.7 million in economic value in the corridor.

The FTA funding comes from its Small Starts capital investment grants program. This will be a one-time lump sum payment known as a single year grant agreement. Congressman Blumenauer helped create the program, and Oregon U.S. Sen. Senator Merkley supported it in his position on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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