Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce calls for voters to reject transit initiative

The Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce has joined a host of city movers and shakers to oppose an anti-high-capacity transit ballot measure, which will be mailed to voters next week.

In a statement released Tuesday, Chamber CEO Debi Mollahan said Measure 34-210 was bad for businesses and bad for the community.

“Efficient transportation is the lifeblood of commerce,” Mollahan wrote. “Without it, Tigard will be left behind economically.”

The ballot measure asks Tigard voters to decide the fate of high-capacity transit in the city.

If passed, the city would formally oppose any form of high-capacity transit, including MAX light rail and rapid bus service. The city would be required to send letters to several county, state and federal leaders declaring its position, and would not be able to make amendments to city code to make way for high-capacity transit without a public vote.

Supporters claim the ballot measure will force the city to negotiate better with Metro and other regional leaders on issues of transportation, because it will need final approval from voters before anything can be built.

But opponents, including the Chamber, say the measure would tie the hands of city leaders as they try to plan for the transportation needs of the future.

The area is expected to grow by 40 percent by the year 2035, Mollahan said, and cities like Portland, Tigard and Tualatin will need to keep their options open for new ways for people to get around town.

“Tigard is geographically positioned as a transportation and business hub in the metro area,” she said. “More people live in and conduct business in Tigard than ever before, causing significant traffic congestion. Understandably, residents cite congestion as their number one area of concern associated with growth.”

Some have argued to widen existing roads, like Pacific Highway, but Mollahan said that would not fix the city’s problems.

“Adding or widening roads will displace/disrupt more Tigard businesses than a high-capacity option and will reduce the tax base, affecting the future economic vitality of Tigard.”

The Chamber’s statement comes one week after the Tigard City Council took a similar stand when it voted to oppose the measure. The Chamber’s announcement is nothing new for the organization. Mollahan spoke at the Tigard City Council meeting last week, coming out against the measure, and the Chamber has included an argument against the measure in the voter’s pamphlet. Other opponents of the measure include former Tigard mayors Tom Brian, John E. Cook, Craig Dirksen and Jack Schwab, as well as the Westside Economic Alliance, former Oregon Gov. Barbara Roberts and others.

Supporters of the measure in the voter’s pamphlet include co-chief petitioners Art Crino and Tim Esau, of Tigard; Tigard residents Andy Bergman, Joe Jumalon, former candidate for the Oregon Legislature and Tigard-Tualatin School Board, Gordon Fiddes as well as the measure’s author, attorney Eric Winters.

Ballots are due by March 11 and can be mailed in or dropped off at Tigard City Hall, 13125 S.W. Hall Blvd.

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