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TriMet open house at MAC in February will show how light rail would change the look of the SW Corridor and tell where the plan stands

PMG FILE PHOTO - If it's built, SW MAX could start running in late 2027 if everything falls into place.The public will soon get a good look at some of the knowns and unknowns for the Portland area's potential sixth light rail line, the one which would run through Southwest Portland on Barbur Boulevard between downtown Portland and Bridgeport Village in Washington County.

The 12-mile SW MAX line would be the linchpin of the Southwest Corridor Project, an expensive and ambitious civic plan to connect Tualatin, Tigard, Southwest Portland and downtown Portland by light rail. There are also plans to guide the residential and commercial development that would accompany light rail.

Anyone wondering what the lay of the land would look like locally with light rail coming to this part of town can get an early look at the preliminary design of the proposed line on Wednesday, February 12, 6-8 p.m. at the Multnomah Arts Center. This will be the first of five Open Houses. (See schedule below.)

"We want the project to reflect the values of the area. This is an exciting time in the design and planning for this," said Roberta Altstadt, spokeswoman for TriMet.

KNOWN NUMBER ONE - STATIONS

The open house will include illustrations of some of the major features of the project. For example, there will be information about 13 stations to be built along the route, seven of them in Southwest Portland. Preliminary design plans also include five park and ride locations, two of those in Tigard, one in Tualatin and two in Portland. Unknown at this time is whether drivers will have to pay to park at those locations.

KNOWN NUMBER TWO – NEW BARBUR BLVD. BRIDGES

There will also be illustrations and explanations of the plans for replacing the Newbury and Vermont Viaducts (or Bridges) located between the electronic speed limit warning signs on Barbur Boulevard. That stretch of Highway 99 through the area called The Woods has been detested by bicyclists for decades. The bridges were built in 1934 by crews using shovels, pick-axes, wheel barrows pulled by horses and dynamite.

KNOWN NUMBER THREE NO NARROWER BARBUR

In order to trim the preliminary cost of the project (see UNKNOWN NUMBER ONE), TriMet developed a cheaper alternative which would have removed lanes for cars and trucks along the busiest stretches of Barbur Boulevard. The Steering Committee for the project rejected that plan after a rapid, negative response from the public.

KNOWN NUMBER FOUR – BRIDGEPORT OR BUST

"It's Bridgeport," said Altstadt. There was talk in October of shortening the proposed route by three-and- a half miles and having it end and begin in Tigard. The Steering Committee confirmed the longer route in December. There is also an alternative preliminary plan for what's called a "recommended interim terminus," which would have the line go as far as Upper Boones Ferry Road in eastern Tigard.

UNKNOWN NUMBER ONE – MONEY

PMG PHOTO: BILL GALLAGHER - TRIMET General Manager Doug Kelsey chairs the SW Corridor Project Steering Committee.Some taxpayers are wondering how much the light rail line will cost to build and who's going to pay for it. Here are some short answers. In May, 2018, the projected cost was $2.37 billion. Late in 2018 it went to $2.73 billion. By May of 2019 the cost was projected to be $2.84 billion. That's when the Steering Committee, led by Tri Met General Manager Doug Kelsey, declared a $462 million shortfall. About $370 million was trimmed from that by cutting some project expenses and increasing anticipated funding from local and federal "partners." The projected cost is estimated at $2.5 billion as of December 2019.

Taxpayers will pay for it. If voters approve a major Metro transportation bond in November, $975 million of the proceeds would be spent on the SW Corridor Project. Millions of dollars worth of funding will also come from local governments, which will be considering funding agreements in the next few months.

UNKNOWN NUMBER TWO – MARQUAM CONNECTOR

It still hasn't been decided how light rail riders will be transported from the station at Southwest Gibbs Street at Barbur Boulevard up to Marquam Hill and all the medical facilities locagted there. A so-called Marquam Connector has never been considered expendable. Alstadt says feedback from the public on which of two alternatives they prefer will be taken at the open houses and at an on-line open house that TriMet will post at https://trimet.org/swcorridor/ in February.

FEBRUARY SW CORRIDOR PROJECT OPEN HOUSES

February 12 - Multnomah Arts Center 7688 SW Capitol Hwy, 6-8 p.m.

February 18 - Tigard Public Library 13500 SW Hall Blvd, 6-8 p.m.

February 25 - University Place Conference Center 310 SW Lincoln St, Portland, 6-8 p.m.

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