City leaders discuss benefits of Seneca Street re-alignment

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - A rendering by SRG Partnership, Inc. shows the new structure option for the Tualatin City Council building. The current City Council building will need to be demolished if the Seneca Street extension is approved. With a deadline looming at the end of the month, the City Council declined to make a decision regarding what to do about Seneca Street, which is to say, how to relieve traffic congestion projected to increase when the Nyberg Rivers development opens on the site of the formerly Kmart-anchored shopping center.

If the council approves the realignment by the Jan. 31 deadline, CenterCal will take care of construction in conjunction with its development projects.

The updated Tualatin Transportation System Plan requires the CenterCal development to relieve traffic by realigning Seneca Street — likely bisecting council chambers as they stand now.

But the council remained divided on the subject, and in a work session discussion that often got testy, could not agree whether to realign Seneca Street, whether to allow the demolition of the current City Council building, and whether to build a new City Council building, and if so, when.

“I am very sad about this whole thing,” Councilor Ed Truax said. “I’m sad I don’t have 20 million urban renewal dollars to partner with CenterCal to build a civic center where Cabela’s would be. At the same time, I have to recognize that whatever we decide to do now will be the way it is for all our lifetimes.”

“I would connect the street, I would tie this all together, and I would do the full-meal deal,” he added.

City estimates show a new building would likely cost $4 million. Meanwhile, renting office space to house council meetings and about 15 city employees would run around $237,000 a year. The city had also explored relocating council and staff in city-owned facilities, but lacked the proper real estate.

Councilor Monique Beikman was in favor of extending Seneca Street, arguing for the safety benefits, and because it would increase access to the library.

Councilor Nancy Grimes proposed holding off on building a replacement and instead renting office space in the city to avoid “pulling the trigger” too quickly without thinking new facilities through.

Mayor Lou Ogden balked at the price of extending Seneca Street.

“I’m having a hard time seeing the benefit I gain for the cost investment,” he said.

Beikman disagreed.

“My main reason for extending Seneca Street now would be the quality, not quantity,” she said. “To me this is just your way for trying to convince us all it’s all quantitative. It’s not. It’s a qualitative question in my mind.”

Beikman pointed out the cost of extending the street would be covered by Transportation Development Tax funds.

“It’s no out-of-pocket for the city,” she said. “It’s cheaper in the long run for us to do this right now.”

She also welcomed the opportunity to establish a new, more thought-out, city facility.

“We built this building in 1967,” Beikman said. “It was supposed to be a temporary building. Heaven forbid we do that again.”

Councilor Frank Bubenik supported Beikman and Grimes’ suggestion they draft a proposal supporting the Seneca Street extension.

“I’d rather have there be a public vote than just bury it,” he said.

More information:

  • citizen objections to the project
  • Contract Publishing

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