Beaverton: Use Biden infrastructure funds for downtown loop
As the Biden administration and congressional Democrats set their sights on a $2 trillion infrastructure package, Beaverton officials are hoping a little bit of that money comes their way.
The Beaverton City Council is making its pitch to U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, a Beaverton Democrat, to receive federal dollars for a "downtown loop."
In a letter to Bonamici, the City Council describes the loop project as a "safer, more accessible multimodal transportation system that removes barriers to critical services and housing, reducing carbon emissions and supporting diverse underserved communities."
As envisioned, the downtown loop project would include wider sidewalks, new protected bike lanes, pedestrian crossing treatments and enhanced bus stops to emphasize safety.
The goal of the project is to prioritize walking, biking and transit in two downtown arterial roads, Southwest Hall Boulevard and Southwest Watson Avenue. City officials say this would link key destinations in the area.
Right now, two state highways and the rail line bisect Beaverton's central core. The Round, including a MAX light rail station, Beaverton City Hall, a food cart pod, and the still-under-construction Patricia Reser Center for the Arts lie to the north of that busy transportation corridor. The Beaverton City Library, Beaverton High School, the Beaverton Farmers Market, and many downtown shops, restaurants and churches lie to the south.
City officials say they want to better connect the downtown area for pedestrians and cyclists.
"Our highest probability of getting funding is for some portion of the loop project, so that's a no-brainer to me," said Beaverton City Councilor Marc San Soucie, who voted in favor of approving the letter to Bonamici at the council's Tuesday, April 6, meeting.
City officials say the improvements would be beneficial for Central Beaverton's racially diverse and predominantly low-income residents. Outreach activities for the project include interviews with disabled residents and residents of color, as well as an online open house.
City councilors also discussed seeking federal funding for another project, a "quiet zone" that would bar train operators from sounding their horns along a section of tracks running through Beaverton.
Officials say Beaverton residents, housing developers and hoteliers have long complained about the noise pollution caused by train horns.
Federal law requires locomotives to sound their horns at 96 to 110 decibels as they approach at-grade crossings and continue blowing the horn until the lead locomotive fully occupies the crossing.
"Train horns make it difficult to provide a comfortable experience for hotel guests and limits the ability of hotel operators to compete with other area hotels," said in a draft of the letter. "Nighttime noise from train horns impacts health and livability for nearby residents, including our newest residents in new mixed use, affordable housing."
It added that the quiet zone project will eliminate the need for routine train horns along the section of the railroad listed.
The project would also include safety improvements at six at-grade rail crossings in downtown Beaverton that serve freight rail and TriMet's WES commuter rail.
Beaverton City Councilor Laura Mitchell was not in favor of the letter of support for the quiet zone.
"The reason I don't support the quiet zone project is because I feel that the evidence that was presented to us to make the areas safer, actually, in my opinion, with people as distracted as they are with phones, radios and everything under the sun, I just don't think it's the right direction to move in," Mitchell said.
While the City Council voted 5-1 in favor of approving the letter of support for the railroad quiet zone, Mayor Lacey Beaty said she will hold onto the letter for the time being. There was unanimous support among councilors for the downtown loop, and Beaty said Beaverton has a better chance to receive federal support for that project.
Beaverton has been trying to win backing from the regional government Metro for both projects. It has asked Metro to consider them as part of a regional transportation project list.
The regional government is mulling another transportation ballot measure, after voters shot down a roughly $5 billion measure last November.
At least some of those projects could also be in line for federal funding if Congress approves President Joe Biden's infrastructure package this year.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated with comments from a spokesperson for the Beaverton mayor's office clarifying there is no intended recipient yet for the "quiet zone" support letter.
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