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Settles question of how to get passengers up and down the hill from Barbur Blvd. if SW MAX ever becomes a reality

A new light rail line that would serve Southwest Portland, Tigard and Tualatin would be a welcome transit option for people who work at OHSU, two-thirds of whom don't have parking privileges on Marquam Hill.

The question of how to someday get the hoped-for thousands of SW MAX riders to and from the campus from a stop on Southwest Barbur Boulevard now has an answer.

"We have finally narrowed in to what I would say is a preliminary recommendation," TriMet's Dave Unsworth said Thursday night. "We believe that inclined elevator is the right choice to connect our Gibbs Street station to Marquam Hill."

He was speaking via videoconferencing, of course, to members of an advisory committee for the SW Corridor Project, which promises a $2.8 billion, 12-mile light rail line between Portland State University and the Bridgeport Mall near Tualatin.

PMG PHOTOS: BILL GALLAGHER - This photo was taken from a trail through the Terwilliger Wildlands. An inclined elevator would ascend from Southwest Gibbs Street. The Congregation Ahavath Achim synagogue would probably have to be demolished, according to TriMet.His "preliminary recommendation" was approved by top TriMet management and is expected to be endorsed by the steering committee for the project. That means if the SW MAX line ever gets built, Portland will see another new, innovative means of moving people. The inclined elevator would operate parallel to the Portland Tram, which operates between South Waterfront and Marquam Hill.

PMG PHOTOS: BILL GALLAGHER - This photo was taken from a trail through the Terwilliger Wildlands. An inclined elevator would ascend from Southwest Gibbs Street. The Congregation Ahavath Achim synagogue would probably have to be demolished, according to TriMet. The inclined elevator being recommended was chosen over a bridge and elevator roughly similar to what was built to get Portland Tram passengers across I5. TriMet estimates that by 2035, 10,000 people a day will need a way to get to and from the 11 medical institutions on Marquam Hill.

Basically, passengers would board an elevator car at the SW Gibbs St. station on Barbur Blvd. for a ride up the steep hillside through the park called Terwilliger Wildlands. The elevator would stop before crossing Terwilliger Boulevard. There would be an elevator on a parallel track for the trip down the hill.

There is no word yet on whether passengers would be charged a fare, whether the elevator cars would be staffed and whether the City of Portland or TriMet would own and operate the inclined elevator.

Because there are relatively few inclined elevators operating in this country, it was initially considered to be "in a high risk category." But that was also part of its appeal to volunteers on an advisory committee who called for the Marquam Connector to be "cool, iconic and something to be proud of."

It took almost three years and and a couple of dozen citizen group meetings to arrive at the inclined elevator as the preliminary recommendation. Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, among others, has opposed any kind of Marquam Connector.

The impact of a Marquam Connector on wildlife migration was an issue throughout the process. The inclined elevator was chosen because it would do the 'least harm,' according to TriMet."Either the funicular (inclined elevator) or the bridge/elevator will severely impact Terwilliger Parkway and will only take passengers to the foot of Campus Drive with still a long trek up to the hospitals," Fritz wrote in an email to the SW Community Connection. As a registered nurse she once worked on Marquam Hill.

TriMet General Manager Doug Kelsey has been adamant about the importance of building a Marquam Connector. TriMet calls it a "paramount component of the project." Kelsey originally favored the less expensive bridge/elevator option, "based on capacity and cost." When he said that last year the estimated cost of the inclined elevator was between $35 and $45 million and that of the bridge/elevator was between $15 and $25 million.

On Thursday, April 2, TriMet's Scott Robertson told the SW Corridor Project Community Advisory Committee that $20 million has been earmarked to build the Marquam Connector.

He said they've reduced the estimated cost by reducing the risks involved with the inclined elevator option,

"Where we initially had a lot of risk, we thought inclined elevator would be in the $30 – 35 million range. We now believe it can be in the $20 – 25 million range," he said.

TriMet is still trying to find more than $90 million in savings on the projected cost of the entire SW Corridor project, which is currently estimated at $2.8 billion. The funding would come from a variety of public sources. The Federal Transit Administration is expected to cover about half the cost and another $900 million for the project could be included in a funding measure sponsored by Metro on the November ballot.

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