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Buses preferred for Division-Powell transit line

Photo Credit: TRIBUNE PHOTO JONATHAN HOUSE - A cyclist passes by the new transit center under construction on the east side of the Tilikum Crossing in Southeast Portland where the Division-Powell line could connect. The first enhanced bus line in the region could be operating on Division Street and Powell Boulevard by 2020.

The steering committee for the Powell-Division Transit and Development Project narrowed down its mode and route options at its Monday meeting. The committee advanced buses over rail as the preferred transit mode.

The committee also chose a route that includes Division from Gresham to Portland and Powell within Portland.

The project is being overseen by Metro, the elected regional government.

In coming months, Metro staff will study enhancing TriMet's current bus lines with different styles of buses and improved stations. One option, called Frequent Service Plus, would maintain the lines in the existing streets. The other, called Bus Rapid Transit, would include dedicated bus lanes on some or all of the route.

Many questions about the Division and Powell routes still need to be answered, including each end, station locations, and whether the two streets would be connected on 50th, 52nd, 82nd, 92nd or some other avenue. Officials at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham have pressed for the route to reach there. The new transit center being built behind OMSI for the Portland to Milwaukie Light Rail project is a logical connection in Portland.

Early estimates place the cost of a Frequent Service Plus route at under $250 million. Bus Rapid Transit would cost between $250 million and $750 million.

Following the Sept. 29 decisions, discussions are expected to place through January with various stakeholders, including city officials, large employers, major institutions and user groups, such as freight truck drivers, bike riders and those who commute by car. After that, the steering committee will reconvene to continue making decisions, probably in February.

Once the budget is known, TriMet is expected to apply to the Federal Transit Administration for a share of the project budget. Additional funds and in-kind contributions will be requested from the State of Oregon, Metro, Portland and Gresham.

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