The prospective 12-mile Southwest Corridor MAX line that may someday connect downtown Portland, Tigard and Tualatin would travel along an elevated bridge when trains reach the "complicated" intersection called the Crossroads at Southwest Barbur Boulevard and Capitol Highway.
A steering committee composed of local elected officials, TriMet's general manager, and an Oregon Department of Transportation manager voted unanimously Monday, March 11, to abandon all other possible alignment alternatives in favor of a plan that would mean the demolition of 25 businesses employing almost 200 people. It includes a new light-rail bridge that crosses over Barbur south of Capitol.
"With this alignment, if you're heading south on Barbur Boulevard (toward Tigard), the route turns left off of Barbur and goes behind the Barbur Transit Center. Then, just south of the transit center, the route spans over I-5 and over Capitol Highway as a flyover until you land on the west side of Barbur and the east side of I-5," said Jeb Doran, TriMet's project manager for the light-rail plan.
The new light-rail line — which would be the Portland area's first new line since the Orange Line to Milwaukie — is still in the planning stages.
Before any trains start rolling, local governments would have to approve millions of dollars in funding, voters would have to approve a regionwide transportation funding measure, and the federal government would have to contribute at least half of the $2.8 billion to $3.1 billion the line is likely to cost.
That regional measure vote has not yet been scheduled, but is expected to happen at the November 2020 general election.
Doran said the alignment decision by the steering committee settles the Crossroads debate, which has been the subject of three public meetings attended by 190 people, 125 emails, notification of 60 property owners and a special session of the Portland City Council.
"Crossroads is a fairly complicated problem, and we've looked at a lot of different alignments. Narrowing the possible scenarios down to one is the culmination of that," Doran said. "We're now down to the one alignment that works and meets the metrics and the goals and objectives. This is the one we'll be moving forward on."
Hardest hit if the project happens will be the businesses located at the strip mall on the east side of Barbur just south of the Crossroads.
Capitol Corner, anchored by a Chase Bank branch, was built in 1990. Also in the path of the now-approved alignment is a McDonald's, a Starbucks and the automotive services located at the southwest corner of the intersection of Capitol Highway and Barbur Boulevard just south of the transit center.
The next issue the steering committee will have to resolve is how to connect the light rail line to the campus of Oregon Health & Sciences University. That decision is expected in May.
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