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Metro panel takes up budget, route issues at Monday meeting



Photo Credit: TRIBUNE PHOTO JONATHAN HOUSE - A cyclist passes by the new transit center under construction on the east side of the Tilikum Crossing in Southeast Portland where the Division-Powell line could connect. Basic decisions about the design of the region’s next high-capacity transit corridor could be made on Monday.

No, it’s not the Southwest Corridor Project, the proposed link between Portland and Tualatin that has been studied for years and is facing voter opposition in Washington County. It’s the Powell-Division Transit and Development Project, which has not been studied nearly as long, but is already much closer to becoming reality.

The Powell-Division project is intended to improve transit and encourage new development between Portland and Gresham. The corridor being studied includes Southeast Powell Boulevard and Division Streets, two major thoroughfares that carry 18,000 bus

passengers every workday between the two cities.

Both projects are being overseen by Metro, the elected regional government. Although the steering committee overseeing the Southwest Corridor Project is not scheduled to

begin making major decisions for years, the panel overseeing the Powell-Division project is much closer to acting. Preliminarily, it could decide the type of transit and narrow down the route at its Sept. 29 meeting.

“We expect to see what kind of consensus has formed on the committee,” says Dana Lucero, a senior public involvement specialist who has been working on the project.

Although no one can yet say for sure, the committee appears to be leaning toward choosing buses instead of streetcars or trains as the “transit mode.” According to a summary report distributed last week, enhanced bus service can be offered much sooner — within seven years, as opposed to 15 or 20 years for a new rail line. And the bus options are much less expensive.

Significantly improving the existing frequent bus lines with bigger buses, enhanced stations and other features could cost less than $250 million. A bus rapid transit line with its own dedicated lanes could cost between $250 million and $750 million. A streetcar line with its own lanes could cost $750 million to $1 billion. A light-rail line would cost more than $1 billion.

The committee also seems prepared to narrow down the route options. Lucero notes that at previous open houses and committee meetings, the most commonly discussed route uses both Division and Powell. It would run along Division from Gresham to Southeast 82nd Avenue in Portland. From there it would run along 82nd to Powell, where it would continue through Portland.

“That’s the route the public supports the most,” Lucero says.

The exact alignment of such a route would be decided in the next phase. In Gresham, large employers and major institutions that could be connected include Mt. Hood Community College, the Gresham Vista Business Park, Mt. Hood Medical Center, Gresham High School and the Multnomah County East building. In Portland, they include the Portland Community College Southeast Center Campus, the Fred Meyer headquarters, Cleveland High School and the transit center being built near the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. In addition, new apartment buildings have been built between Division and Powell in Portland in recent years, and the city’s proposed comprehensive land-use plan update envisions many more.

Opportunity areas

Lucero says cost estimates are very rough and will be refined in the next phase of the project. So will potential development projects at eight “opportunity areas” selected by Portland and Gresham along the route.

The areas potentially targeted for development are the intersection of Powell and Cesar Chavez boulevards; the area bordered by Powell, Foster Road and 50th and 52nd avenues; 82nd Avenue between Division and Powell, the intersection of Division and 122nd Avenue; the intersection of Division and 162nd Avenue; the intersection of Division and 182nd Avenue; Division between Eastman and Main streets; and Stark Street between Holgate Boulevard and 242nd Avenue.

After Monday’s meeting, discussions are expected to take place through January with various stakeholders, including city officials, large employers, major institutions and user groups, such as freight-truck drivers, bike riders and those who commute by car. After that, the steering committee will reconvene to continue making decisions, probably in

February.

Once the budget is known, TriMet is expected to apply to the Federal Transit Administration for a large share of the funding. Additional funds and in-kind contributions will be requested from the state, Metro, Portland and Gresham.

The project schedule says new service could begin in 2020, well before construction is expected to begin on the the Southwest Corridor Project.

The steering committee open house and meeting will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 29, at St. Philip Neri Church, Carvlin Hall, 2408 S.E. 16th Ave., Portland.

Committee members and the organizations they represent include: Metro Councilor Shirley Craddick, co-chairwoman; Metro Council Bob Stacey, co-chairman; Trell Anderson, Catholic Charities; John Bildsoe, Gresham Coalition of Neighborhood Associations; Lori Boisen, Division-Midway Alliance; Devin Carr, student and transit rider; Matt Clark, Johnson Creek Watershed Council; Bill Crawford, Southeast Uplift Neighborhood Coalition; state Rep. Shemia Fagan; Heidi Guenin, Upstream Public Health; Jessica Howard, president, Portland Community College Southeast; Nicole Johnson, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon; Kem Marks, East Portland Neighborhood Office and East Portland Action Plan; Neil McFarlane, TriMet; Commissioner Diane McKeel, Multnomah County; Melinda Merrill, Fred Meyer; Diane Noriega, board chairwoman, Mt. Hood Community College; City Commissioner Steve Novick; Raahi Reddy, Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon and University of Oregon Labor Education and Research Center; Lori Stegmann, Gresham City Council; Rian Windsheimer, Oregon Department of Transportation; and Matt Wand, East Metro Economic Alliance.

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