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With Oct. 10 City Council hearing approaching, some warn proposed light rail line could damage wooded areas.

COURTESY METRO - This map shows the preferred route for a new light rail bridge over I-5 in the Crossroads area of Southwest Portland, although other options are still being studied.The need to preserve and create affordable housing in the Portland area's Southwest Corridor is already a hotly debated topic. But the City Council also can expect to hear concerns about potential environmental damage caused by the proposed MAX line between Portland and Tualatin when it holds a hearing on the recommended route on Oct. 10.

The Southwest Corridor MAX project is being managed by Metro, the elected regional government. The Metro steering committee overseeing the project has released a recommended route for the line between downtown Portland to Tualatin, through Tigard. The project is intended to help reduce congestion and encourage redevelopment in the area that is home to more than 10 percent of the region's population. More than 70,000 new residents and 65,000 new jobs are expected in the area by 2035.

Based on the results of previous MAX projects, the light rail line is expected to increase land values and housing costs in the corridor, potentially displacing some of the 12,000 existing low-income households there. Because of that, Metro helped develop an Equitable Housing Strategy as part of the project. The City Council is expected to adopt it on Oct. 4.

The strategy calls for $1.5 billion to be invested in affordable rental housing and services in the corridor over the next 10 years. If voters approve Metro's $652.8 million affordable housing bond at the Nov. 6 general election, some of the funds are expected to be used to purchase property along the line for future affordable housing projects. It is unclear where the rest of the money will come from, although the strategy cals for a new urban renewal area to be created.

But since the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on the project was released in July, some area residents have begun warning about potential environmental damages, too. In an opinion piece first published in the Portland Tribune on Sept. 26, the nonprofit Friends of Terwilliger argued that part of the Terwilliger Parkway will be permanently damaged by the connection between Southwest Barbur Boulevard and the OHSU campus on Marquam Hill.

The city-owned linear park was conceived and designed between 1903 and 1912 by Olmsted Brothers Landscape Architects. Although the final form of the connection has yet to be decided, Anton Vetterlein, the nonprofit's president, wrote, "Metro and TriMet intend to acquire the land from Portland Parks and Recreation and split the parkway by cutting down trees and replacing them with urban structures of concrete and steel. The scenic canyon where this will occur has many majestic Oregon white oaks, as well as Douglas firs and bigleaf maples, with framed views out over the city."

Several neighborhood organizations in Southwest Portland also are worried about a possible alignment over I-5 in the area of the complex Barbur, Capitol Highway and Taylors Ferry Road intersection, known as the Crossroads. Although no final decision has been made, the steering committee prefers a new bridge over I-5 to the west of Barbur. The DEIS says this structure could require "a potential permanent or temporary use" of a portion of the Woods Memorial Nature Park in the area.

Writing in the October newspaper published by the Southwest Neighborhoods coalition office, coalition President Leslie Hammond said the group opposes that alignment, saying it "would adversely affect the Woods Creek and Woods Park." The Multnomah Neighborhood Association says the same thing on its page.

Both urged readers to write and testify before the City Council on the issue. A new bridge to the west of Barbur is still being studied, however. Metro has scheduled a community meeting on issues related to the Crossroads for Oct. 29.

TriMet will own and operate the completed MAX line. Its board of directors approved the recommended 12-mile route on Sept. 26. The route includes 13 potential stations and as many as seven Park & Rides with up to 3,500 parking spaces. The Metro Council will vote on it before the end of the year.

Project costs were most recently estimated at $2.64 billion to $2.86 billion in 2024 dollars, the estimated midpoint of construction. Metro is expected to refer a regional transportation funding measure to the 2020 general election ballot to help pay for it. Half the funding will be requested from the federal government. Construction cannot begin until 2023, at the earliest.

Upcoming Southwest Corridor meetings

• City Council hearing on recommended route, 2 p.m. Oct. 10, City Hall, 1221 S.W. Fourth Ave., Portland.

• Affordable housing information session, 3-5 p.m. Oct. 13, Markham Elelmentary School, 10531 S.W. Capitol Highway, Portland.

• Community Crossroads Meeting, 6-7:30 p.m. Oct. 29, Multnomah Arts Center, Room 30, 7688 S.W. Capitol Highway, Portland

For more information, visit tinyurl.com/yaff48nx.

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