Metro will partner with Washington County due to $850,000 grant
Metro will partner with Washington County and TriMet to improve Tualatin Valley Highway after receiving a large grant from the Federal Transit Administration.
In a press release on Wednesday, Oct. 7, Metro announced it received $850,000 from the FTA. The Federal Transit Administration announced it would fund 25 projects in 17 states through the Helping Obtain Prosperity for Everyone program.
The largest grant was awarded to Metro.
According to the FTA, the HOPE program supports "projects that use transit systems as a springboard to create better lives for people in rural communities and areas experiencing long-term economic distress."
"The funding will allow Metro and its partners in the Tualatin Valley Highway project, TriMet and Washington County, to do meaningful engagement with the communities along that corridor," said Metro in a statement.
The FTA-funded project is independent from a Metro payroll tax measure that voters rejected last week. Ballot Measure 26-218 would have pumped about $5 billion into transportation projects and initiatives throughout the region, with TV Highway among the priorities.
Metro defines the Tualatin Valley Highway Transit and Development project as "a collaborative process with the surrounding communities and relevant jurisdictions to prioritize transportation projects, building on recent work undertaken by Washington County."
As for exactly how the money will be spent, Metro says a specific plan will come from the FTA.
The grant application proposes for Metro to convene a steering committee, undertake public engagement, including targeted outreach to communities of concern, and develop an equitable development strategy.
As for Metro's strategy, the agency will approach the TV Highway project with the same vision it has approached other recent developments. Metro says an example of this is the southwest corridor equitable development strategy.
The project included "empowering people affected by the light rail expansion to determine the community's needs, ensuring people affected by a light rail expansion are able to stay in the community and have opportunities to thrive, and preserving and expanding affordable housing.
Metro's application for the funds also commits TriMet to advance conceptual transit designs, undertake a travel time and reliability analysis, and evaluate the feasibility of using articulated electric buses.
"This corridor, in comparison to both the Portland metropolitan region and the county as a whole, has above-average concentrations of low-income populations, people of color, limited English-language proficiency residents and youth populations," explained Elissa Gertler, Metro's planning and development director.
TV Highway, also signed as Highway 8, connects several communities along an east-west axis, namely Forest Grove, Cornelius, Hillsboro, Aloha, Beaverton and Portland. It has been identified by TriMet as a key corridor to increase transit ridership, and it includes one of the most-used bus lines in Washington County, Line 57.
"This will allow Metro and our partners to begin work on the Tualatin Valley Highway investment area, aligning transit improvements with community development activities and leveraging private investment within a 16-mile corridor," said Gertler.
When asked for greater detail about Metro's alignment strategy, the agency noted that the TV Highway corridor has a lot of competing needs.
Running through lower-income communities like Aloha, Cornelius and Forest Grove, the highway is an important corridor for buses and cyclists, and there is a need for more affordable and stable housing in the area.
There are also many businesses and commercial properties with highway frontage, including a number of shopping centers — as well as green spaces like the Pioneer Cemetery in west Hillsboro and the Tualatin Hills Nature Park in Beaverton and public buildings like the Cornelius Public Library and OHSU Hillsboro Medical Center.
"This is compounded by an increased need to move goods and people efficiently and reliably as congestion increases due to population and job growth," Metro officials added in a statement. "The project is an opportunity to build on previous efforts to improve safety, provide travel options, increase affordable housing in the corridor and support business development."
The steering committee will include both elected officials and community members, although details have yet to be finalized. The agency anticipates project discussions beginning in early 2021, with the steering committee being formed midyear.
The grant will also allow Metro to conduct analyses to inform the design of the transit projects along the corridor — studying, for example, the feasibility of larger and more environmentally friendly articulated electric buses.
"The community engagement work that this grant will help facilitate is in keeping with Metro's commitment to lead with equity," Metro officials stated in the announcement. "Development of the Tualatin Valley corridor can bring much needed economic benefits for the region, but it also has the potential of displacing the low-income populations and communities of color that call it home."
Investments in public goods like transportation, schools and parks often increase property values as an area becomes more desirable, added Metro.
The agency says this process results in rising business and apartment rents that have an outsized impact on minimum-wage jobs and lower-income households. While stretches of TV Highway could surely do with a facelift, and Metro and Washington County officials want to improve traffic and safety throughout the corridor, higher property values can result in evictions and unplanned moves because people can no longer afford to live there.
"Businesses and households priced out of an area may be longtime stalwarts of the community who have contributed to its ability to thrive in the future," Metro officials noted. "As the region's population growth continues to outstrip new housing development, low-income renters may have nowhere to go, and working-class jobs can disappear. Furthermore, race and household income are strongly correlated in this region and economic displacement mostly affects households composed of Black, Indigenous and other persons of color."
By working with the community and integrating its needs and concerns into the early stages of the planning process, Metro and its partners hope to avert evictions and other negative effects of development, the agency asserts.
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