A continuous MAX line from Hillsboro to PDX could start construction as early as 2021.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - The Washington County Fair Complex could soon become the end of the TriMet light rail's Red Line, which runs between Washington County and Portland International Airport.TriMet's plans to extend its MAX Red Line light rail to Hillsboro are moving forward.

The Portland-area transit agency's board of directors signed off Wednesday, April 24, on two steps that move the project to the next phase of funding and development.

Since 2003, TriMet's Red Line light rail trains have taken passengers from Washington County to Portland International Airport. The Red Line currently ends at the Beaverton Transit Center.

Plans are to extend the line westward to the Fair Complex/Hillsboro Airport MAX station. The line currently is used by the MAX Blue Line, which runs from Hillsboro to Gresham.

Extending the service to Hillsboro Extending the service to Hillsboro. On Wednesday, the TriMet board of directors approved the "locally preferred alternative" a plan for the line that will be sent to the Federal Transit Administration for approval. A second resolution approved Wednesday authorizes TriMet to negotiate with the Port of Portland, which operates the Portland International Airport.

The FTA could pay for as much as half of the $200 million project, TriMet said.

Extending the Red Line out to Hillsboro will "provide better connections and a more reliable ride," the agency said in a statement. Blue Line trains out Hillsboro often are crowded during peak travel times, and while a handful of Red Line trains do run to Hillsboro during rush hour on weekdays, they are not included in scheduled service. During off-hours, that can mean a long wait.

Extending Red Line service to the Washington County Fair Complex would double the amount of service most hours, TriMet said.

"With continuing growth in both housing and jobs in Washington County, the request for more MAX service along the corridor between Hillsboro and Beaverton Transit Center is increasing," TriMet said.

In addition to the eight new MAX trains needed for the line, the project requires improving tracks and switches in Beaverton and Hillsboro, as well as upgrading signals and building a new TriMet facility at the Fair Complex for MAX conductors, TriMet said, as well as improvements at the MAX maintenance facility in Gresham where the trains are serviced.

The plans also would add a second MAX track to sections of Red Line near the Portland International Airport and Gateway Transit Center. The line in that area has only a single track, and delays can impact MAX Blue and Green line trains throughout the system.

Construction could begin as early as 2021, and will take two years to complete.

John William Howard contributed to this report.

By Geoff Pursinger
Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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