Community soapbox by Les Poole and Yvonne Lazarus

For almost two years local citizens have fought TriMet’s plan to extend light rail to Oak Grove.

The troubling process started in 2004 when former Milwaukie Mayor Jim Bernard and others tried to extend the unwanted end of the proposed light-rail line to Kronberg Park on the south side of Kellogg Lake. Fortunately the ill-concieved plan failed after the public learned the property was actually a donated park.

By 2007 light-rail planners and several local officials came up with a new place to dump the end of the line... about half a mile further south at Park Avenue and McLoughlin Boulevard.

The plan was approved with almost no involvement of the neighborhood citizens who would be most affected.

For months we spoke out against the extension to Oak Grove because it was underfunded.

TriMet received an apparently flawed approval to run the rail on top of the wooded Trolley Trail right-of-way. TriMet didn’t choose to relocate the highway in order to make room for the tracks.

The cost would have been far higher, but that didn’t justify failing to protect park lands. In the summer of 2010 TriMet announced a huge financial shortfall, but continued to press for ending the line at Park Avenue.

In October of this year, TriMet began cutting the trees along the west side of the trail in preparation to move the electric lines and sewer systems. Citizens discovered that TriMet had received approval for the tree-removal project by claiming that our public park was private property. TriMet apparently failed to follow the rules that are imposed on every other developer in Milwaukie.

We recently filed a legal appeal with the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals that challenges what TriMet has done. LUBA has received the complaint that is being handled by Dave Hunniciutt, president of Oregonians in Action. TriMet is expected to respond by Dec. 8. I am curious as to how they can justify their position or wish away the issues.

Now that the trees have been ripped from the ground, it’s easy to see that the impacts are not minimal, and that the trail shouldn’t be sacrificed. TriMet could have avoided all of this, and we’d still have our beautiful green gateway. Tell TriMet to come up with a different design, or simply to build a shorter, less-costly line. This project has been a poor fit for Milwaukie since day No. 1.

Many lines have been built elsewhere at far less cost, while ill-fitting light rail designs have torn Milwaukie apart for over 18 years!

Join us in saying “No light rail on the Trolley Trail.”

Les Poole and Yvonne Lazarus are residents of Oak Grove.

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