Incoming Metro leader Lynn Peterson vows to tackle congestion and housing in 2019

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JON HOUSE - Metro President-elect Lynn Peterson laid out her agenda for the elected regional government Friday morning.Metro President-elect Lynn Peterson previewed an ambitious agenda for the elected regional government last week, including plans to tackle transportation bottlenecks, expand transit service and reform permitting processes to encourage the construction of a wider range of housing in the Portland-area.

"We've done a lot of good planning, but we've got to get some s--- done," said Peterson, known for her salty language, who will take office in January.

Peterson was the keynote speaker at the 2019 Housing Forecast sponsored by the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland, which represents both large and small home builders in the greater Portland region. It was held at the Oregon Convention Center on Nov. 2.

According to Peterson, population growth is causing problems throughout the region, ranging from increased congestion to the affordable housing crisis that is contributing to homelessness.

"We're facing a lot of challenges pushing forward on livability in our community, and many of our residents are feeling that anxiety," Peterson said.

In the past, Peterson said, Metro and other governments in the region have concentrated on improving just one transportation corridor at a time. As a result, most of the region has not received the investments necessary to reduce congestion and support new development.

Among other things, Peterson said important corridors like Tualatin Valley Highway have been all but ignored, and have not been supporting as much traffic and housing as they could or should.

Peterson said she has started discussions with city and county leaders to reduce barriers to residential construction, including high charges on developers that support infrastructure improvements, and zoning restrictions that prohibit the construction of so-called missing-middle housing, like duplexes, triplexes and accessory dwelling units.

She specifically thanked outgoing Washington County Chair Andy Duyck and Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle, who were in the audience, for starting the conversation in their county.

"We need to have missing-middle housing, both as infill and on the edges," said Peterson, who said the question of how to fund the required infrastructure outside urban centers needs to be addressed.

Peterson also plugged Metro's $653 million affordable housing bond Metro, which voters decided Tuesday saying it was a necessary step to provide homes to households earning below the median family income in the region (see page A2 for election results).

Although she did not mention it, Peterson also will lead the crafting of a regional transportation funding bond Metro has promised to refer to the November 2020 ballot. It is intended to help pay for the proposed Southwest Corridor MAX line from Portland to Tigard and Tualatin, which is currently estimated to cost between $2.3 billion and $2.9 billion.

Polls show that such a measure must support transportation and transit projects in all three countries to have a realistic chance of passing.

"We need to build bus (speed improvement) intersections and also increase highway lane miles," Peterson said, in a possible preview of the kinds of projects she is thinking of including.

Peterson spoke at the forecast as relations between Metro and local home builders are improving. In the past, the Metro Council did not always agree to expand the urban growth boundary it administers as much as some home builders wanted or into areas they preferred.

After the last periodic review, the council did not expand it at all, provoking complaints that Metro was contributing to the affordable housing crisis.

In response, outgoing Metro President Tom Hughes led a collaborative review of the expansion process that completely reformed it.

This year, for the first time, the council solicited and is considering requests from four cities to expand the boundary into designated urban reserves adjacent to their borders. Hillsboro, Beaverton, King City and Wilsonville have requested the boundary be expanded by 2,200 acres to support up to 9,200 new homes. The council appears poised to approve all four requests in December.

"You guys worked on some really good reforms to the urban growth process, and I want to say thank you. I look forward to your help as we get the expansion areas under way," Peterson said.

Peterson, a transportation expert, is a former Lake Oswego city councilor, Clackamas County chair, and director of the Washington Department of Transportation. She was elected Metro president at the May 2018 primary election with only token opposition.

Metro is the only elected regional government in the country. It is charged by state law with transportation and land-use planning, and also administers a regional park system, public venues like the convention center and Oregon Zoo. It mostly encompasses the urbanized portions of Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties.

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