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High-level decision on Marquam Hill Connector mode put off until sometime in the fall

The local elected officials and transit officials charged with developing a plan for a light rail line that would run from Portland State University to Bridgeport Village in Tualatin, expressed support for a funicular railway but hedged their bets by also supporting further study of a less-expensive elevator and bridge to transport passengers up to the medical institutions on Marquam Hill.

But for its cost, a funicular railway – also known as an inclined elevator – was clearly the preferred mode for moving people from Barbur Boulevard up a steep incline to Terwilliger Boulevard. Members of the Southwest Corridor Light Rail Transit Project Steering Committee agreed without taking a formal vote to "keep both options alive" while TriMet staff tries to reduce the estimated cost of the project – which is currently about $2.7 billion. The funicular option could cost between $35 and $45 million while the bridge and elevator mode could cost between $15 and $25 million to build.

"The two options are moving forward today so that's a very good decision. Many other modes were eliminated," TriMet General Manager Doug Kelsey said of a process that's been underway for months.

"Moving forward, I'm hopeful for this fall we'll be able to make some of the decisions and balance that against the other cost savings we need to come up with. There's more work to be done, particularly with the details for the elevator and bridge as well as the extra cost for the funicular option.

"We'll have to triangulate and reconcile this with the quarter billion dollar shortfall," Kelsey said of the gap between year-old estimated costs and current proposed costs.

The Marquam Connector is meant to complete a ride to and from the medical centers more than 300 feet up from Barbur Boulevard and Southwest Gibbs Street, which might be the site of a light rail station someday.

Speaking for the park advocacy group Friends of Terwilliger, Anton Vetterlein told the Steering Committee his group supports a funicular railway but finds it "minimally acceptable." As for the bridge and elevator, he said, "That would stick out like a sore thumb on Terwilliger Parkway. We'd rather have no connector than a bridge and elevator."

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