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Rethink Sandy's transit center

Ever wish you hadn't second-guessed your first instinct? That's the situation the Post finds itself in with the revelation that the Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce and the city of Sandy are at odds over the proposal to build a transit center for Sandy Area Metro buses at Centennial Plaza.

In March, the Post reported the city's plan to utilize a $216,400 grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation and another $34,000 of city funds to create the transit center.

At that time, the Post wrote an editorial opposing this plan, but nobody ever got a chance to read it. That's because at the last minute we decided the editorial shouldn't run because we weren't hearing complaints from anyone else.

Fast-forward four months, and here we are. The Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce and at least one member of the City Council are saying exactly what the Post would have said four months ago had the editorial actually seen the light of day. Our problems with the idea of the transit center fall under several headings:

Parking

There isn't much public parking near Centennial Plaza, except for on-street parking. If commuters use those spaces, then those cars will stay on the street all day, reducing the number of spaces available for folks who may want to patronize one of Sandy's businesses. This plan would lead to more congestion. And, likely, lead to some who park in business lots while commuting to Gresham.

Lost opportunity

We read with interest the comments from city staff who shrugged off the loss of bus stops on McCormick Drive on the eastern edge of Sandy, saying no other neighborhoods receive that level of service. The city does provide service to this neighborhood, and that's a good thing. Spending money while simultaneously reducing services sounds suspiciously like government in action.

Spending

The lion's share of the cost for this proposed project would be shouldered by a grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation. And because of that, we're supposed to think it's OK to spend the money without remorse. The problem is, no matter where this money comes from, it ultimately boils down to taxes. The city of Sandy is willing to spend nearly a quarter-million in grant (tax) dollars on a project it describes as temporary in nature. The city has plans in the future to establish a more permanent transit station farther east.

As concerned citizens, we should all be bothered by the use of these dollars on a project that has a short shelf life, regardless of whether those funds originate at local, state or federal levels.

Centennial Plaza

This is Sandy's living room. It's where the Music Fair and Feast sets up its stage and raises necessary dollars for the Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce. It's where the town folk gather to sing Christmas carols around the community tree. This isn't a good site for a bus pass through: too noisy and too smelly.

The bottom line

We believe this plan was publicly debated, which is how it ended up as part of the city's Transit Master Plan. And we don't think the city has gone down this road with the intention of ruffling feathers. But now that it appears this plan has met with opposition, we would strongly recommend a new course of action.

Sandy should simply live with the bus routes it currently operates. If that means the loss of the ODOT grant, so be it. There will be other grants when the time is right to build the permanent transit station farther east, which would serve an even greater number of commuters.