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Connect Oregon projects extend to Washington County

Eight metro-area transportation projects are in line for a share of state bond proceeds for work other than on highways.

Among the projects are a new auto staging facility at the Port of Portland, completion of a pedestrian and bicycle trail in Tigard, and rail improvements to allow quicker movement of passenger and freight trains in and out of Portland.

A final review committee met June 14 in Portland to rank all 75 requests for shares of lottery-backed bonds in the Connect Oregon VI program. Its recommendations will be heard July 21 in Salem by the Oregon Transportation Commission, which then will decide the list at a meeting Aug. 18-19 in Klamath Falls.

Connect Oregon provides one of the few unrestricted sources available for aviation, bicycle/pedestrian, marine, rail and transit projects, because Oregon law restricts fuel and truck taxes and vehicle and driver fees for road and bridge work.

Three dozen projects are within the $45 million available for projects in the current two-year cycle, including administrative costs. The total price tag for all 75 requests tops $88 million.

Projects must be started within a year of state approval, and they must be completed before sponsoring agencies are reimbursed.

Although most of the review panel’s discussion focused on projects that are on the cusp — ranked lower than 36th but higher than the mid-40s — questions were raised about the requested money for the Union Pacific improvements.

One panel member questioned whether UP should get money in the aftermath of a UP oil train derailment June 3 near Mosier, east of Hood River in the Columbia Gorge. Another questioned UP’s $8.3 million request, easily the largest among the 75 qualifying projects, and suggested that the project get less.

But other members said projects should be judged on their merits — the rail bottleneck has long been acknowledged as a cause of delays in passenger and freight trains — and that the review panel lacked legal authority to reconfigure projects already submitted for consideration.

If projects cannot proceed, the commission may substitute others in ranked order. In 2015, after the commission rejected one recommendation by the final review panel and a couple of other projects fell through, it awarded $7 million to six projects that missed the cut in 2014. However, the $7 million included savings from previous rounds in Connect Oregon, which began back in 2005.

Although each of the first three cycles of Connect Oregon distributed about $100 million for projects, the more recent cycles have been limited to around $40 million each. About 180 projects have been funded between 2005 and 2015.

The regional list

In priority order, noted in parentheses, here are brief descriptions of the top-ranked projects in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties, the proposed amount from Connect Oregon, and the amount from matching sources at a minimum of 30 percent:

n Port of Portland, 19-acre auto staging facility across from Terminal 6 in the Rivergate Industrial District, $2.6 million request, $4.1 million match. The facility will be leased and ease the movement of vehicles to and from the port. (1 overall)

n City of Tigard, completion of Tigard Street Trail that converts an unused rail spur to pedestrian/bicycle connections to bus and transit lines, $700,000 request, $600,000 match. (3)

n Union Pacific and subsidiaries, track, signal and elevation improvements at a Portland junction of UP and BNSF railroads, $8.3 million request, $4.7 million match. The project will eliminate a 10 mph restriction and reduce wait times for 35 daily Amtrak (passenger) and freight trains by up to 21 minutes. (8)

n City of Portland, new pedestrian/bicycle overcrossing of I-405 at NW Flanders Street, $2.9 million request, $3 million match. The new 24-foot-wide bridge will connect Northwest Portland with downtown. (21)

n South Clackamas Transportation District, new transit and operations center in Molalla, $390,000 request, $207,000 match. (22)

n Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District, completion of the 5.5-mile Waterhouse Trail, $400,000 request, $600,000 match. The project involves building 700 feet and replacing 275 feet of boardwalk on the multiuse trail, which extends north from the Merlo Road/SW 158th light-rail station north of Tualatin Hills Nature Park. (25)

n Clackamas Community College, updated transit center, $1.8 million request, $792,050 match. A multiuse path will connect the center to Oregon City High School and future industrial development. (31)

n City of Milwaukie, new multiuse trail through Robert Kronberg Nature Park to connect downtown Milwaukie and the Main Street light-rail station with the regional Trolley Trail, $1.2 million request, $583,365 match. This is the final part of the trail and connects the crossing at River Road across Highway 99E with already-completed improvements at the new bridge across Kellogg Lake.

The park is operated by the North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District, which is governed by the county commissioners. (33)

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