Where will Tigard's high-capacity transit line go?
Plans call for stops in Triangle, downtown, 72nd Ave.
Next stop, Tigard?
Thats what city officials from across the region are asking themselves this week, as they study a series of possible routes in the years-long plan to bring MAX light-rail or a rapid bus line from Portland to Tualatin.
The Southwest Corridor Plan steering committee made up of city leaders, county commissioners and government agencies met Monday and began to discuss a series of options for stations and alignments for the transit line when it reaches Tigard.
Knowing where the transit stops has been the subject of speculation for years. The city collected public feedback in 2012 identifying potential stops, including Washington Square mall, Scholls Ferry Road and McDonald Street.
But Metros proposed stops steer well away from Pacific Highway, which worried planners and city officials because of the impact to homes and businesses.
The first stop near the Tigard area will be Portland Community Colleges Sylvania campus, east of the city.
Planners are debating whether or not to build a tunnel to reach the campus. From there, the line would cross Interstate 5 into the Tigard Triangle the section of town between the interstate and Highway 217.
Plans call for one to two stops in that area, the first near Southwest Baylor Street and a possible second stop near Southwest Beveland Street.
Where the stations are sited is an important decision. In addition to the possibly impact on businesses and homes, the city is getting ready to begin redevelopment work in the Tigard Triangle.
The proposed transit lines will have ramifications for what the Triangle eventually looks like, said former mayor and current Metro Councilor Craig Dirksen. Indeed, their location could severely limit redevelopment, at least in the short term.
The linkage between the downtown and the Triangle is an important part of (the citys) planning for the Triangle, he said at Mondays meeting.
The Steering Committee will vote in December on where those transit lines will be built in Tigard. A decision between MAX light rail and rapid bus isnt expected until next spring.
Plans for downtown vary in cost, direction
Leaving the Triangle, things get more complicated. The line has to cross another major obstacle: Highway 217.
That could happen in several ways, planners said. Five options were presented to the committee, including building a ¾-mile overpass stretching from 72nd Avenue to Hall Boulevard.
Do we really want a long parallel structure to 99 hanging out over the sky? asked Tigard Mayor John L. Cook.
Other options are less of an eyesore, but could be more impactful to businesses. Another possible line would cross Hall Boulevard and enter downtown via Ash Avenue through a residential area.
We know there will be property impacts, said Metro Regional Planner Brian Harper. Were crossing into downtown, bisecting some industrial properties, some commercial properties, there could visual impacts with structures ... We have to cross Hall Boulevard somewhere, so there could be possible residential impacts as well.
Whatever alignment is chosen, the line will make a stop at the Tigard Transit Center on Southwest Commercial Street before moving back toward 72nd Avenue.
Minimize impact, mayor says
From downtown, the line would either follow the Union Pacific rail line down 72nd, or divert toward Interstate 5. Both lines would have stops near Bonita Road and Upper Boones Ferry Road before stopping at Bridgeport Village.
These present challenges as well, Harper said. Union Pacific would have to sell off a portion of its property to build the line, which could be expensive and time consuming. Along Interstate 5, the line would run afoul of several businesses, including some of the citys most high-profile employers, such as Gerber Legendary Blades, Leifs Auto and Atiyeh Bros., the century-old rug and carpet showroom run by the family of former Oregon Governor Vic Atiyeh.
Cook, Tigards mayor, said its important that whatever option gets chosen does the least harm.
When we are looking at business impacts in the Southeast part of the city, (the decision) should be easy when you look at it, he said. From what I see, it doesnt seem to make sense (to run down I-5). You take out way too many commercial businesses and we dont want to do that.
Tualatin still up in the air
Plans for the line become even less clear after leaving Tigard.
Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden declared late last month that the proposed transit line will likely not terminate in downtown Tualatin due to limited funding. He reiterated that conclusion Monday.
Theres no point in studying this to see if its a good idea or not, because you cant do it, he said.
Project planners havent officially dropped plans for a downtown Tualatin station or a stop at Bridgeport Village. Ogden said he hopes the Bridgeport Village plans will be feasible.
Alice Cannon, Tualatins assistant city manager, remarked, The whole landscape of the project is changing for Tualatin.
There is precedent for a community ruling out a high-capacity transit stop without withdrawing from the Southwest Corridor project altogether. Early plans called for the line to terminate in Sherwood, but the project has since been scaled back.
Like Sherwood, Tualatin remains part of the Southwest Corridor planning process and stands to gain from new TriMet bus or shuttle routes associated with the proposed high-capacity transit line. The project is already bearing fruit for both cities, with the new 97 bus line linking the communities set to open next year.