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Mayor calls for more attention to West Linn as transit project rolls on

West Linn Mayor John Kovash has sent a letter to officials involved with the Portland to Lake Oswego transit project highlighting local concerns.

The letter, sent to Metro Council President Tom Hughes, Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Lake Oswego Mayor Jack Hoffman, among others, criticizes officials for leaving West Linn out of much of the process leading up to a steering committee's recent recommendation to analyze the extension of the Portland streetcar to Lake Oswego.

Officials have also considered making no transit improvements in the corridor or offering enhanced bus service between the cities in hopes of easing future traffic congestion expected in the northern stretch of Highway 43.

Any of these options would have an impact on West Linn, Kovash wrote.

Though the streetcar wouldn't enter West Linn, he said, 'We remain convinced the impacts from a potential streetcar extend beyond the proposed termini and will affect West Linn's residents. Therefore, we believe this process should have accounted for the unique needs and specific interests of our community.'

The streetcar project has not been approved. Various jurisdictions are working on local recommendations, and eventually Metro leaders will vote on whether to continue studying one of the transit choices. Metro is the lead agency in a partnership with the state, Clackamas and Multnomah counties, Lake Oswego and Portland, TriMet and Portland Street Inc.

The initial analysis of potential streetcar impacts is based on today's zoning, which affects housing and businesses and the concentration of people in different areas.

Kovash's letter requests that project officials consider:

--- Providing traffic forecasts through West Linn based on expected changes in zoning in Lake Oswego, such as in the Foothills area if the district is redeveloped;

--- Considering the higher costs of maintaining and enhancing Highway 43 through West Linn than other parts of the corridor;

--- Maintaining the performance of vehicular and transit operations on Highway 43 and ensuring the city's bus service is maintained at existing or enhanced levels.

Using mass transit to get from West Linn to Portland would become less convenient if the streetcar moves ahead. Project coordinators have said TriMet could cut a segment of Route 35, which now runs from Oregon City through West Linn and Lake Oswego to downtown Portland. Instead of a direct connection, West Linn riders on the 35 line would have transfer to the streetcar in Lake Oswego if the line is extended.

Kovash also asked that any future development south of the end of the proposed streetcar line in Lake Oswego not 'preclude the future extension of streetcar or other high-capacity transit to Oregon City via West Linn along Highway 43.

'We are concerned that the evaluation of potential project impacts does not fully anticipate the added inconvenience for public transit users south of Lake Oswego,' Kovash wrote, 'the added vehicular congestion on Highway 43 resulting from higher density mixed-use development in the Foothills District of Lake Oswego and in Portland's John's Landing neighborhood; and the desire of West Linn's residents to participate in this process.'

It's unclear what impact West Linn's letter will have on the transit project process, as the public comment period closed Jan. 30, a couple of weeks after an open house about the project at West Linn City Hall. A steering committee on the transit project recommended pursuing analysis of the streetcar in February.