My View: WES can be a solution to MAX quandary
There is a fifth option of dealing with the $400-plus million Southwest Corridor Plan budget shortfall. And according to TriMet and a SWCP steering committee member, it has not even been considered.
It meets the steering committee's goals of providing rail service to Bridgeport Village, including the commuting workers of the light industrial and commercial buildings, and provides rail service to Tualatin.
Why not just stop light rail at the Tigard Transit Center, as proposed by Tigard Mayor Jason Snider (a SWCP steering committee member), and add WES stations at 74th/Bonita and Upper Boones Ferry/Durham?
These are the same stations and station locations TriMet recently proposed as light-rail stations if light rail went along 74th Avenue — it's just that they would be WES stations instead.
In the past nine months, in an effort to save money, TriMet has proposed running light rail beside the WES along 74th Avenue, with stations at 74th/Bonita and Upper Boones Ferry/Durham, but they discarded the idea because it did not save enough money from the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) route that was approved by Metro, the Tigard City Council and Portland City Council in the fall of 2018.
But, the LPA, as approved, included elevated rail crossings at Bonita Road, 72nd Avenue, and Upper Boones Ferry Road, and park-and-ride stations at 72nd/Upper Boones Ferry and at Bonita/74th, all of which have been cut in cost cutting. Also cut was some of the increased parking at the Bridgeport park-and-ride.
Inadequate parking has proven to drop ridership below projections and, at grade crossings, has proven to cause increased congestion. It seems they never learn from their mistakes of the past and will cut anything and everything to get to the desired end point.
And now, in order to afford getting light rail to Bridgeport, they also are proposing to narrow Barbur Boulevard down to one lane of auto traffic in each direction, which definitely was not part of the LPA.
But, the WES rail already goes right by Bridgeport Village. It just does not have stops.
According to TriMet's own standards, they expect people to walk up to half a mile to access rail. Well, a station on the vacant land between The Circuit Climbing Gym at Upper Boones Ferry and Durham roads and the Oregon Bar Association building would be within this half-mile walking distance of Bridgeport Village.
And it would be significantly less than a half-mile if they created a walking path to the mall between the surrounding buildings so you don't have to walk the long way via Durham Road, 72nd Avenue or Upper Boones Ferry Road.
And for those unwilling to walk, the No. 76 bus is getting frequent service (every 15 minutes or less on all seven days of the week) in spring 2020. The 76 goes between the Tigard Transit Center, right beside The Circuit, and over to Bridgeport Village and the park-and-ride.
Furthermore, they could eliminate the proposed parking garage at Bridgeport, and use that money to help fund construction of parking garages at the Barbur Transit Center, and in downtown Tigard.
The downtown parking garage could be built at the Ferguson Plumbing building site at 9110 S.W. Burnham St., one block from the Tigard Transit Center.
The city of Tigard recently bought the site and intends to make it into a civic plaza. So the property is available. And this parking garage concept is in line with SWCP park-and-ride scenario B.
Drivers coming up Interstate 5 from the south could park and catch the WES in Wilsonville. Those further north coming up on Interstate 5 would just have to go a few more exits to the Barbur Transit Center parking garage or park at the existing Bridgeport park-and-ride surface lot and walk to the WES or take the No. 76 to the Tigard Transit Center or the WES.
People coming up Highway 99W, off Bull Mountain, down Highway 217, and from the rest of Tigard could park at the new garage downtown. People from Tualatin can use the existing Tualatin WES park-and-ride or the Bridgeport park-and-ride.
Option No. 5 is a win, win and win. It:
• keeps the program within budget.
• keeps Barbur Boulevard two lanes in each direction.
• gets rail service to Bridgeport via the existing WES.
• eliminates all the impacts to the existing businesses and the jobs lost in the Bridgeport/Bonita area due to light rail.
• eliminates the construction impacts to the public.
• eliminates the congestion-causing impacts from at-grade light-rail crossings of three major roads (Bonita Road, Upper Boones Ferry Road and 72nd Avenue).
• increases WES ridership and helps justify continuing the struggling WES.
• allows future rail extension to go down the Highway 99W corridor to Sherwood (as was the official plan for decades), and light-rail branch service could still be extended to Bridgeport in the future.
Instead of eliminating two Barbur Boulevard auto lanes, elevated crossings, park-and-rides and parking, lets learn from our past mistakes, and add two cheap and easy WES stops to serve the Bridgeport area.
John Smith is a Tigard resident and homeowner of more than 20 years.
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It costs just a few cents a day.)