Key questions identified in light rail proposals
The final design of a Southwest Corridor light rail line from Portland to Tigard is still many years away, but several of the key, early questions to be answered include: How would the trains run through Tigard? How many stops should there be in the Tigard Triangle? And is it better to have one route or two?
Members of the Southwest Corridor Plan Steering Committee — consisting of elected officials from Portland, Washington County, several suburban cities and regional agencies — gathered Monday to see the latest iteration of the proposed light rail line. Decision-making remains well into the future; this week's meeting was informational. If all of the regional, state and federal funding should come together, the earliest a train might run from downtown Portland to Bridgeport Village is the year 2025. One estimate puts the price tag on the project as high as $2.8 billion.
Right now, staff is about halfway through the environmental-review process.
But already some of the details are coming together, especially along Barbur Boulevard and Interstate 5; in downtown Tigard; and in the Tigard Triangle, the sector identified by Highway 99W to the north, Highway 217 to the west, and I-5 to the east.
For the Tigard Triangle, the question on the table is: Should there be one light rail station or two?
The one-station scenario would place the stop near Southwest 70th Avenue and Baylor Street. The other proposal would place a stop there, with a second one at the southern end of the triangle, near 70th and Beveland Street.
That latter proposal has riled some business owners in the Triangle, who said Beveland Street, and their offices, could be affected.
James Shook owns a certified public accounting office on Beveland Street. He's been there for more than a decade.
"It's serene, it's professional," he said. "That serenity will be displaced by the light rail going through there."
Liz Tester works at Western Psychological and Counseling Services on Beveland. She also referred to the serenity of the site, adding that more than 8,000 patients have visited the office so far this year.
For Robert Davidson, who owns Minuteman Press on nearby Hermosa Way, it's a question of getting Metro's attention before plans are too far long.
"We hope we're not too late. We hope we're being heard," he said. "As I look at the maps, the likely route would veer off Beveland and right into my business."
The two-station versus one-station question also could pit Washington County against the City of Tigard. County Commissioner Roy Rogers, who sits on the Southwest Corridor committee, said Beveland is a major thoroughfare for people getting into and out of the Triangle.
"This would be a terrible mess, traffic-wise," he warned Monday.
But Tigard Mayor John Cook — also a member of the committee — said the two-station option is the one the city favors.
Other questions that arose Monday included the route of the train. One route, dubbed "The Railroad," would put the MAX line alongside an existing freight track south of downtown Tigard, heading toward Bridgeport Village. The other option would slide the tracks to the east, where they would parallel Interstate 5.
Cook said the "Railroad" option would run closer to one of the city's three lowest-income neighborhoods. That would be good, he said, since equity is one of the goals of the project.
However, Metro planner Matt Bihn said the I-5 alignment could be closer to more multi-family housing, especially coming from the Lake Oswego side of the Triangle.
Finally, committee members saw proposals for two different routes.
In one, the through route, every train would run through the Triangle, through downtown Tigard, and end at Bridgeport Village. But in the so-called branched route alignment, half of the trains would terminate in downtown, while half would terminate at Bridgeport.
The environmental review process for the entire Southwest Corridor plan runs between now and mid-2019. The funding process — likely a combination of a local vote and securing federal money — is anticipated to stretch from the latter part of 2018 well into 2021.