Tigard council approves Southwest Corridor light rail preferred alternative route
Despite some reservations, the Tigard City Council has signed off on two measures of support for the preferred alternative alignment of the Southwest Corridor light rail as it makes its way through Tigard.
In a 4-1 vote Tuesday night, the council approved both a resolution of support for the alignment and a memorandum of understanding between several government agencies regarding the light rail route and affordable housing in its path.
Councilor Marc Woodard was the lone "no" vote on both measures.
"It's not a perfect alignment …" Kenny Asher, the city's director of community development, told councilors before their vote. "That's because there is no perfect alignment."
Still, the majority of those testifying during a public hearing supported the plan that will result in five TriMet light rail stations within Tigard city limits.
Michelle Cheney, a branch manager with the Portland Clinic, and also on the board of directors for the Tigard Chamber of Commerce, said she supported the alignment, noting that a steering committee listened to their recommendations of not displacing their Tigard clinic along the route, a possibility earlier on.
The preferred alignment also had the support of local politicos, including Washington County Commissioner Roy Rogers, Metro Councilor (and former Tigard mayor) Craig Dirksen and Oregon House District 35 Rep. Margaret Doherty, who all spoke in favor of the alignment that would have trains enter the city along Barbur Boulevard before crossing Highway 217.
The end of the line would be at Bridgeport Village in Tualatin.
A proposed Park and Ride there would mean relocation of a Village Inn restaurant, although TriMet officials have said they are working through extensive public outcry that a different location be found.
Rogers said the council was making a major decision about the future of transportation — some of which won't be realized until years to come — as well as creating a huge economic opportunity.
But there were detractors and concerns voiced as well.
James Caster, a nine-year Tigard resident, said the light rail line would not solve traffic congestion, and he expressed concerns about the number of homes and businesses that would be demolished along the way. He told the councilors that, if they approved the alignment, it would prove they were beholden to special interests and the "Metro dictatorship."
Likewise, Mike Strand, founder and CEO of Apex Industries, a precision machining and fabrication company at 12670 Hall Boulevard, said he heard several weeks ago that his business "is going to have to go away" to make way for what will likely house a light rail station, park and ride and the Tigard Transit Center, which have all been studied for that area, along with a TriMet operations and maintenance facility.
It was the operations and maintenance facility, Woodard said, that irritated him the most, saying the first time he heard about it was only April or May of this year.
"It was a shock to me when I heard about it," he said. He also called the route a "risky business deal."
Council President Jason Snider said he wasn't aware of the facility until recently as well, although city staff has said it's been discussed for some time.
Meanwhile, several councilors also have expressed concerns about their hope that the Hall Street station, now planned for the east side of Hall Boulevard, should have been on the west side of Hall and closer to the downtown core of Tigard.
Snider asked TriMet officials what it would take to move the route west of Hall and the impact on travel time.
They responded it would be an extra $80 million to $100 million and add an estimated six minutes to travel time.
Councilor Tom Anderson, who was on a committee that helped draft the memorandum of understanding, was that he felt TriMet and the city came up with a very good compromise and believes the Hall station will be very close to downtown Tigard.
While Mayor John Cook said he didn't love the preferred route, the issue at hand was whether to approve the preferred option and not a vote on whether the council wanted light rail or not.
"It's not the best alignment; it's the best one we could come up with," said Cook, who was also on the Southwest Corridor Steering Committee.
He reiterated what he's said before, "This doesn't solve the congestion. It just solves the future congestion."
Already approved by the Portland City Council and the Washington County Commission, the final step in the process comes Thursday when Metro takes a vote on the preferred alternative alignment.