Committee to study rapid transit, light rail on Barbur Boulevard

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO BY JONATHAN HOUSE - Adding light rail or bus rapid transit to already crowded portions of Southwest Barbur Boulevard are among the challenges facing Metro planners.After nearly two years, 15 meetings and hours of study, the Southwest Corridor Plan Steering Committee on Monday unanimously approved a recommendation to look closely at light-rail and bus rapid transit as alternatives for high-capacity transportation between downtown Portland and Tualatin.

The 14-member commission that includes representatives from cities along the corridor and three public agencies, recommended that Metro and TriMet study light rail and bus rapid transit, with at least 50 percent of the routes “in exclusive right of way” — buses that use their own traffic lanes, similar to the system used by the Lane Transit District in Eugene and Springfield, or MAX trains that run on existing track.

In October, the committee dropped from further consideration the streetcar as a potential mode, a high-capacity transit connection between Tigard and Sherwood on Highway 99W and the idea of adding or converting an Interstate 5 lane for high-occupancy transit use. Although public surveys showed strong support for a link to Sherwood, in the recommendation approved Monday the committee selected Tualatin as the high-capacity transit destination instead.

The Southwest Corridor Plan Steering Committee also directed staff to study a transit line operated by TriMet that connects Portland to downtown Tualatin via Tigard.

During the next several months as Metro staff studies transit options, the cities of Beaverton, Durham, King City, Lake Oswego, Portland, Sherwood, Tigard and Tualatin will invest in dozens of other transportation projects. Southwest corridor committee members recommended funding of 81 projects ranging in cost from $500,000 to more than $20 million, which would support future high-capacity transit and corridor land use.

Total costs are estimated at more than $2 billion.

Oregon’s Department of Transportation and TriMet have identified improvements that can be implemented during the transit study, including bike lane markings and crossing improvements at several points on one of the Southwest corridor’s major thoroughfares, Southwest Barbur Boulevard. Project partners have been urged to consider expediting the process of selecting and bringing into being such transportation projects sooner rather than later.

“There’s a lot of good projects that are still on the list, particularly transportation and active transportation projects,” said Roger Averbeck, Southwest Neighborhoods Inc. Transportation Committee chairman. “I don’t think, in my humble opinion, that high-capacity transit in this corridor is going to be possible without actually fixing some of the really difficult problems.”

Members of the steering committee agreed that there is an incentive to begin making changes in the Southwest corridor, where feasible, as soon as possible.

“There are a number of short-term improvements related to sidewalks, pedestrian improvements and connections that will make the transit service much more effective,” said TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane.

About $60 million in state and regional funds is anticipated to be available in the Southwest corridor in the next 15 years.

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