Steering committee approves proposed alignment despite cuts in project originally meant to serve Powell and end at Mt. Hood Community College

The Division Street bus rapid transit steering committee approved its final vision Monday night for a faster form of bus service on the busy corridor.

The group approved a new bus line between downtown Portland and the Gresham Transit Center, using articulated buses that feature multiple boarding doors and increased carrying capacity. It will replace Line 4, adding improvements such as better coordination with traffic signals, additional stations that shield people from the rain and improved sidewalks near the stops.

“This will be the first bus rapid transit in Portland, and it represents a safer and more reliable way to travel,” said Metro Councilor Shirley Craddick, co-chair of the steering committee.

The majority of the committee accepted the plans fully, with five voting yes with some remaining concerns they believe can be addressed as the project continues. Only one voter dissented from the project — but a consensus was not required to advance the plans to the next stage.

The group also suggests the buses cross the Willamette River over Tilikum Crossing instead of the Hawthorne Bridge.

That’s pending an agreement with Union Pacific Railroad Co. to create an automated switching system to eliminate long delays that currently plague commuters in that area.

“There is never enough funding to do everything,” Craddick said. “It was always going to be a compromise to move forward and have a package we are all comfortable with.”

Originally, the line was also going to travel on Powell Boulevard in Portland’s inner east side, and have an end terminus at Mt. Hood Community College. Both those ideas had to be dropped to lower expenses.

“This dialogue has become richer even as the project has become more threadbare,” said Metro Councilor Bob Stacey, co-chair of the steering committee.

Members of the committee who had stronger reservations during a preliminary vote on Oct. 24 were happy at promises of future planning sessions to address their concerns. TriMet has committed to encourage minority and female contractors, reallocating service hours to areas in need, and supporting small businesses during construction.

All of these will be included in the locally preferred alternative as attachments.

“What we want to do is commit to the conversation and the problems,” said Neil McFarlane, TriMet general manager. “We want to put all of this down in writing so it can be addressed going forward.”

Moving forward, the Portland City Council, Gresham City Council, TriMet Board of Directors, Multnomah County Commission and Metro will have to vote to adopt the locally preferred alternative. Then in the summer of 2017 an application will be filed for federal funding.