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OHSU lobbies for rail route

by: COURTESY OF OHSU, In an open house today, Oregon Health & Science University is looking for public input on its plans for a satellite campus on 9.3 donated acres in the North Macadam Urban Renewal Area. The design would place the new MAX line along the campus’ southern edge on its way out of downtown.

An intense three-month period of public review, comment and decisions on the next MAX line kicks off informally today. It’s the day Oregon Health and Science University holds an open house on the latest design for its proposed satellite campus in the North Macadam Urban Renewal Area. The campus will be built on 9.3 acres donated to the teaching university by the Schnitzer family. Although it’s not officially part of the regional decision-making process on the Portland-to-Milwaukie light-rail line, the design includes the route OHSU wants for the planned bridge across the Willamette River that will carry the line from downtown through its campus. As depicted in the maps to be displayed at the open house, the route would carry the line along the southern edge of its 19.3-acre campus, where it abuts property held by ZRZ Inc., the barge-building company owned by the Zidell family. Among planners working on the line, the route is known as the revised Porter-Sherman alignment. It would follow a new Southwest Porter Street on the campus before crossing the river over the bridge and landing on Southeast Sherman Street between the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and the Portland Opera headquarters. OHSU does not have the authority to set the alignment, however. That will be determined over the next three months by the governments and agencies that are partnering on the project — the cities of Portland and Milwaukie, TriMet, and Metro, the regional government charged with managing growth in most of the tri-county region. The goal is to submit a detailed plan for the line to the federal government on Aug. 1 so that it can be included for funding in the Omnibus Transportation Spending bill that Congress is expected to pass next year. The total cost is estimated at between $1.25 billion and $1.4 billion, with the federal government expected to contribute $750 million. The state of Oregon has committed $250 million in lottery-backed bond funds, with the local governments expected to pay the balance. Major steps toward these decisions are scheduled to begin shortly after today’s open house. An advisory committee chaired by former Portland Mayor Vera Katz is scheduled to meet May 1 to recommend a route for the bridge. Called the Willamette River Partnership Committee, it comprises property owners on both sides of the river, including the owners of the Portland Spirit tour boat, which docks along the east bank of the river near where the bridge could touch down. David Knowles, a consultant working on the project, said the Porter-Sherman alignment is receiving serious consideration. Within two weeks of the group’s making its recommendation, Metro is scheduled to release a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the entire Portland-to-Milwaukie route. It will analyze a number of alternatives that have been under discussion and is intended to help the participating governments make their decisions. Public comment will be taken for 45 days after the release of the environmental impact statement. Big decisions are on horizon Metro is tentatively scheduled to hold open houses on the line May 15 and May 27, with times and locations to be announced. A Citizens Advisory Committee helping Metro will make its recommendations before the end of the public comment period. Some of the biggest decisions will then be made by a steering committee consisting of elected officials from the jurisdictions along the line. They will choose the exact route, including the alignment of the river bridge and the location of the station stops. Those recommendations will go to Metro for approval before being submitted to the federal government. The elected Metro Council is scheduled to adopt what is called the locally preferred alternative of the plan July 24. As it is designing its satellite campus, OHSU is concerned about far more than just the route of the next MAX line. Because the location is a former brownfield with no real street grid, it’s essentially a blank slate — giving designers a free hand to place the roads and bridges within it. According to Susan Hartnett, OHSU’s director of transportation who is working on the project, one goal is to create the most environmentally sustainable campus in the country. Toward that end, the current design calls for streets to be oriented slightly off a true east-west alignment to allow the buildings to take full advantage of the sun’s heating rays. Campus rises up, literally Hartnett and other OHSU officials also are working to determine the best land elevations throughout the campus. The site is below the allowable flood line set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It will be raised substantially by fill dirt before construction begins. Depending on the design of the bridge ramp, portions of the new Porter Street could be raised 14 feet over its current elevation. Other parts of the campus will need to be raised at least 4 feet, Hartnett said. The proposed design includes a 100-foot-wide Willamette Greenway running the length of the campus. This feature is included in the city’s master plan for the North Macadam area. OHSU is not in a position to determine the exact greenway design, however, because most of that land is owned by ZRZ. Hartnett cautioned that although a lot of work has gone into the campus design proposal, it is not intended to be the final version. Public feedback from the open house will help shape refinements, Hartnett said. No schedule has been set yet for construction to begin. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.