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Key decisions to be made in November, after public comment and a debate about project's aspirations

November will tell.

The seven men and one woman who decide what a light rail line through Southwest Portland will look like if it's ever built, should decide this month if it would go to Tigard or to Tualatin and whether Barbur Boulevard would lose two traffic lanes to accommodate it.

The answer to those two questions will determine how much it will cost taxpayers to build what would be the sixth MAX line. One year from now, voters in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties could vote on whether to pay about a third of the projected $2.38 billion cost.

The Steering Committee, made up of six elected and two appointed decision makers, is holding a public hearing on what is known as the Southwest Corridor Project at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 4, in the Tigard Library. Even If the project clears a number of hurdles in the next few months, planning proceeds and the money is found to build it, the soonest a light rail line would start rolling is 2027.

After it hears from the public, members of the Steering Committee will hold a meeting at 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 18, in Tigard City Hall to vote on what SW MAX would look like and how much it will cost to build it. There will be no public testimony at that meeting.

Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly is Portland's one representative on the Steering Committee. The other members are TriMet General Manager Doug Kelsey, ODOT Region 1 Manager Rian Windsheimer, Metro Councilor Craig Dirksen, Washington County Commissioner Roy Rogers, Tigard Mayor Jason Snider, Durham Mayor Gary Schirado and Tualatin Councilor Robert Kellogg.

TriMet Public Information Office Roberta Allstadt tells the SW Connection in an email, "Staff will share updates about potential scope reductions and funding assumptions, then public comment will precede committee discussion. As with previous meetings, staff will determine speakers' time limits depending on how many wish to speak. People are encouraged to submit written comments in advance to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,"

Here's what that means.

"Potential scope reductions" refers to the debate about whether a light rail line should go 12 miles from downtown Portland to Bridgeport Village in Washington County or only the 8.5 miles to downtown Tigard. That debate began when it was revealed that the project was nearly $500 million over a preliminary, proposed budget. There are now options to also cut costs by removing one traffic lane in either direction on Barbur Boulevard from the Fred Meyer store to the Barbur Transit Center. Those are the "budget assumptions" referred to by TriMet.

The other big issue the Steering Committee needs to resolve is what to do about those two old bridges on Barbur Boulevard that are crossed every day by thousands of motorists. The Newberry and Vermont Viaducts, as they are officially known,will either have to be structurally reinforced to support the weight of light rail trains or a route around the bridges must be approved. According to Allstadt, "This is expected to be determined at that November Steering Committee meeting."


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