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AmberGlen plan looks at rail

The Sept. 22 opening of the Portland Eastside Streetcar Loop may not seem like big news to most Hillsboro residents.

A streetcar loop may be in Hillsboro’s future, however.

Whether it will be as long as the new 3.3-mile extension to the Portland Streetcar system remains to be seen. But Hillsboro planners think it could achieve the same twin goals of efficiently moving people and encouraging economic development.

The idea is to run a new transit loop from the MAX line near the Quatama Light Rail Station through the proposed Tanasbourne/AmberGlen Regional Center to the coming Kaiser Permanante Westside Medical Center and beyond. Preliminary city plans call for the 537-acre area to be transformed into a more intensive mixed-use development, with some of the densest housing in the region served by transit, pedestrian and bicycle connections.

As envisioned by the city, approximately 30,000 people will eventually live in the regional center, and 23,000 people will work there. Most of the planning district is located between 185th Avenue to the east, the Amberglen Parkway to the west, the Sunset Highway to the north and the MAX line to the south.

It includes the underperforming AmberGlen Business Park and property owned by the Oregon Health and Science University. It already includes the successful Tanasbourne West development and surrounding apartments.

The first phase of Kaiser Permanente’s new hospital will employ around 1,000 people by itself.

The City Council has already adopted the AmberGlen Community Plan that identifies the area as a mixed-use urban community focused around a central park. Land-use policies allow more than 6,000 new medium- to high-density residential units, 3 million square feet of office space, 500,000 square feet of retail space including shops, restaurants and entertainment, and more than 170 acres of parks, greenways and protected natural areas.

Although a streetcar line has been discussed as a transportation feature, so has an extension of the existing MAX line, a dedicated bus roadway known as Rapid Bus Transit, and simply expanded bus service.

According to Hillsboro Assistant Planning Director Colin Cooper, the city is conducting a high-capacity corridor analysis that will provide more detailed information on the various options. Metro has designated it a tier two corridor for future study and funding.

“We’d like to see it move to tier one as soon as possible,” says Cooper.

Cooper says the entire project could take 10 more years to complete. No cost estimates are available yet. There will be many opportunities for public involvement and comment as planning progresses.

TriMet is also conducting a Westside Service Enhancement Study that could bring increased bus service to the area even sooner.

For more information, check the AmberGlen Community Plan link on the city’s website at ci.hillsboro.or.us/Planning.