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Elected regional government makes major decisions about the future growth of the greater Portland area.

COURTESY METRO - A part of the proposed Southwest Corridor MAX line .The Metro Council made two big decisions with regional implications at its Dec. 13 meeting, approving the Land Use Final Order for the proposed route for the Southwest Corrdior MAX line, and increasing the urban growth boundary it administers by 2,200 acres to support the construction of 9,200 new homes in coming years.

The elected regional government is overseeing the planning of the MAX line that will be built, owned and operated by TriMet if it is funded. The council is planning on referring a transportation funding measure to the November 2020 ballot to help match the federal funds expected to finance 50% of the project. The estimated cost of the line is currently between $2.64 billion and $2.84 billion.

The line is being planned to provide light rail service between Portland, Tigard and Tualatin, although the southern end would be at Bridgeport Village. The council approved the Locally Preferred Alternative, as the route is officially known, in November. It had already been approved by the TriMet board of directors and the Portland and Tigard city councils by then. The Land Use Final Order is the required next step.

The approved route would have the line leaving Portland south of Portland State University on Southwest Barbur Boulevard, run the trains through the middle of Barbur Boulevard without reducing the number of motor vehicle lanes, and enter Tigard on 70th Avenue until Elmhurst Street, crossing over Highway 217 and running east of Hall Boulevard, then traveling next to the existing train tracks until it splits off to Bridgeport Village.

Other work envisioned in the project includes building continuous bike lanes and sidewalks on Barbur until Southwest 60th Avenue, and having the Portland Bureau of Transportation and the Oregon Department of Transportation replace the Newberry and Vermont viaducts on Barbur, which are not up to current street codes.

Many land owners along the route have been mailed notices that their properties may be required for the project. Hundreds of homes and businesses are expected to be acquired. Metro promises to minimize the purchases once the final route is approved.

With the LPA approved, TriMet is taking over the project.It will appoint a new Steering Committee of elected officials and agency leaders in February, along with a new Community Advisory Committee to assist them. Among other things, the new groups will help finalize the connections to OHSU's facilities on Marquam Hill, PCC's Sylvania Campus, and the new alignment of the complex intersections in the area known as the Crossroads where Barbur passes over I-5.

After Final Land Use Order vote, the council also unanimously approved requests from four cities to expand the UGB it administers adjacent to their borders for more housing. The cities are Beaverton, Hillsboro, King City and Wilsonville. The boundary will be expanded onto land Metro had previously designed as urban reserves where development could occur over the next 50 years.

The largest request came from Beaverton, which asked to expand onto 1,232 acres in the Cooper Mountain urban reserve area for 3,760 homes. The next largest request is from King City, which wants to add 528 acres in the Beef Bend South area for 3,300 homes. After that, Wilsonville wants to expand on 271 acres in the Advance Road (Frog Pond) area for 1,325 homes. And Hillsboro wants to expand on 150 acres in the Witch Hazel South area for 850 homes.

The expansion was approved as the region is facing a shortage of all kinds of housing. A Metro staff report says they could reduce owner-occupied home prices slightly in the Portland area.

"If developed, the four proposed UGB expansions would result in modest reductions in housing prices for owner-occupied housing by providing additional housing supply," reads the 2018 Urban Growth Report, which was released July 3 to inform the council's decision.

Thursday's vote concluded a new process for considering expansions to the UGB, which determines where growth can occur in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas county. For the first time, the elected regional government required cities to submit plans about how they would support the growth, including guaranteeing a mix of housing types.

"I'm no enthusiast for urban growth boundary expansions," said Metro Councilor Bob Stacey. "But if you gotta do it, and I think we do this time, then you should be doing it right, and I think we're doing it right this time."

But the addition 9,200 homes is just a fraction of the 280,000 or so more housing units that Metro says are needed in the region by 2038. Many more units are expected to be new apartments in Portland, which is already zoned for them.

The next UGB expansion will be considered in 2024.

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