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TriMet disputes meaning for vote

The Clackamas County anti-light rail initiative has qualified for the Sept. 18 special ballot, setting up a potentially bruising fight between MAX opponents, TriMet and the Clackamas County Commission.

Petition supporters says the measure requires a public vote on the county's $25 million commitment to the $1.5 billion Portland-to-Milwaukie Light Rail Line project. TriMet says the measure only applies to future rail projects because the county has already signed a legally-binding agreement to provide the money. The commission has not actually identified the source of the money or sent the money to TriMet, however.

Petition co-sponsor Jim Knapp says there will be "hell to pay" if the commission ignores the will of the voters. Knapp is also running for the commission, along with a number of other candidates opposed to the project.

On Thursday, county election officials certified 9,728 valid voter signatures on the petitions. Organizers needed 9,378 valid signatures and submitted 11,855 petition signatures on March 5.

Work on the project has already started in Portland. Among other things, a new bridge to carry the MAX line from downtown to inner east Portland is currently being built over the Willamette River.

The Federal Transit Administration has pledged to pay 50 percent of the project cost. The rest is promised by the State of Oregon, Metro, TriMet, Clackamas County, the City of Portland and the City of Milwaukie. TriMet and the FTA have not yet signed the Full Funding Agreement commiting the federal funds, however. That is expected to happen in coming weeks.

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