Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden used his 2017 State of the City address Tuesday evening to highlight the ways that the community is "on the move," citing transportation projects that started or were completed last year.
Transportation is a hot topic in Tualatin. The city experiences hours of gridlock every day due to heavy traffic both on surface streets like Tualatin-Sherwood and Boones Ferry roads and freeways like Interstate 5 that run through the middle of town. But Tualatin is also a hot spot for transportation projects, with Ogden highlighting road construction in between the city and Wilsonville to the south, a bus line that began running between the Tualatin WES station and Sherwood to the west last summer, and a walking and biking trail that connects shopping centers, apartment complexes and public buildings on both sides of I-5.
"There's a long list of projects we have moved the dial on in 2016, and we will continue to make progress in 2017," Ogden said, after showing a short video about those three developments.
Projects moving Tualatin forward, literally, mayor says
The Washington County project to extend 124th Avenue, improve Tonquin and Grahams Ferry roads, and build a new east-west arterial called Basalt Creek Parkway is progressing after breaking ground last spring. The roads under construction are scheduled to open to traffic this fall.
After years of complaints about limited bus service, last May, Tualatin welcomed TriMet bus line 97, providing peak-hours service between downtown Tualatin and Sherwood. The line makes it easier for commuters who ride the WES train to get to work in Tualatin's industrial area along Tualatin-Sherwood Road, while also allowing the nonprofit Ride Connection to shift the route of its Tualatin Shuttle to serve new parts of the city.
A new segment of the Tualatin River Greenway Trail officially opened in February 2016, running from Barngrover Way in the west to the edge of the former RV Park of Portland property in the east. Ogden referred to the trail as Tualatin's "prized gem." The new segment is set to connect to an older segment of the trail in east Tualatin across the old RV park once it is redeveloped.
Ogden also noted road improvements the city is working toward on Herman Road and in the "Garden Curves" corridor centered on Blake Street. He mentioned the regional Southwest Corridor Plan, for which he sits on the steering committee; that Metro-led project would build a MAX light rail line from Portland to Bridgeport Village if funding can be secured. And, he said to enthusiastic applause, Washington County has included the expansion of Tualatin-Sherwood Road in a list of projects to receive funding during the next five-year cycle.
The mayor related the progress being made to address Tualatin's transportation needs to its climate for business and economic growth.
"Government doesn't create jobs," Ogden said. "What we do is we try to make an environment where you can create jobs."
He added, "More than 20,000 people come into this community every day to come to work. There's about 10,000 people who live here who decide to work somewhere else. … We're working hard on a transportation system to keep Tualatin on the move."
Transportation not the only topic
Ogden also devoted a portion of his speech to developments in other sectors. He mentioned a citizen-led effort that successfully persuaded the United States Postal Service to abandon plans to move the Tualatin Post Office to a carrier facility on Teton Avenue, the Tualatin Police Department holding its first-ever Shop with a Cop event for local schoolchildren before Christmas, and training spearheaded by Tualatin's Citizen Involvement Organizations to prepare for a major disaster.
The mayor also predicted success in two competitions in which the city is participating, along with other local partners.
Tualatin is a finalist in America's Best Communities, a nationwide contest run by Frontier Communications and other companies to identify small or rural communities with ambitious plans to address a local need. The Tualatin ABC team received a $100,000 grant award when it was announced as a finalist last year in North Carolina. That money went toward the acquisition and renovation of a trailer as a "Mobile Makerspace," outfitted with equipment, gadgetry and technology to be used in science-, engineering- and design-related education. The Makerspace made its public debut at Tuesday's State of the City event.
"We will win in the final round," Ogden declared confidently. The final round of judging will be in April.
Tigard and Tualatin also jointly applied to become Oregon's second Blue Zones "demonstration community" last year. The Blue Zones Project in Oregon, which is funded by the Cambia Health Foundation, has a goal of bringing the practices researchers have observed in places around the world known for their longevity, like the island of Okinawa in Japan and the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica, to communities in Oregon. Klamath Falls became the first Blue Zones demonstration community in Oregon in 2015.
"We were selected as a finalist to be considered as the next Oregon Blue Zones demonstration community," Ogden said, adding, "I predict we will be that city. … We predict we will win."
Both applications have big implications for the community, Ogden noted. America's Best Communities will award a $3 million grand prize, while the Blue Zones designation would put Tigard and Tualatin in line for potentially millions of dollars in leadership funding from the Cambia Health Foundation to encourage healthy living.
Ogden concluded his address, which ran just under one hour, by returning to a theme he had repeated throughout his 2016 State of the City remarks.
"Yes," Ogden said, "Tualatin really is the best city south of the North Pole."
The State of the City event, which was attended by dozens of community members, local officials and business leaders, was held at Living Savior Lutheran Church. The church was rebuilt after being heavily damaged in a 2012 arson.
Nathan Brandt, Living Savior's senior pastor, gave an invocation before Ogden's speech. Local veteran Dale Potts led the Pledge of Allegiance, the Tualatin High School Crimsonnaires sang "The Star-Spangled Banner," and a color guard was provided by the Tualatin Police Department and Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue.
By Mark Miller