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Southwest Corridor Plan is about more than just transportation

CPO 4B members get the latest information from local officials


When westside residents hear about the much-discussed Southwest Corridor Plan, they probably think it automatically means that a light-rail system eventually will run along Barbur Boulevard and Pacific Highway between Portland and Sherwood.

Wrong.

The main purpose of the plan is to unify local land-use and community-vision plans, including the Sherwood Town Center Plan, Tigard Connections, Linking Tualatin, Barbur Concept Plan and other city and county concepts.

Yes, it also includes coming up with a transit plan and doing a transit alternatives analysis, but those are only pieces of the plan.

On Oct. 11, Tigard City Manager Marty Wine, plus Judith Gray, Tigard senior transportation planner, and Steve Kelley, a senior planner with Washington County Land Use & Transportation, came to a Citizen Participation Organization 4B (Bull Mountain/Tigard) meeting to discuss the plan.

A map of the area being studied shows not a line along Pacific Highway marking a possible rail route but instead a series of overlapping circles marking already existing commercial areas, such as Pacific Highway's intersections with Durham Road, Gaarde/McDonald streets and Main Street, plus Durham and 72nd Avenue and a couple more sites along Highway 217 and Scholls Ferry Road.

"This is a more-focused plan that has evolved," Gray said. "We are not looking at lines, we are looking at places - that has been our whole focus. We have talked to people about the possibilities for these places.

"We are looking at future neighborhoods and their characteristics and connections. There already are some high-capacity transit systems in place - WES, light rail and the street car."

One mode of transportation currently not available in the metro area is bus rapid transit, according to Gray.

"It is getting a lot of attention elsewhere," she said. "It offers a higher quality of service with greater speed and capacity with fewer stops. A traditional bus stops every 500 to 1,000 feet, but high-capacity buses stop less and pick up more people."

But bus rapid transit also must include ways for people to get to those bus stops that are farther apart.

Those working on the high-capacity transit land-use plan, which is part of the Southwest Corridor Plan, have held many question-and-answer sessions and open houses around the area, plus they have been a visible presence at public events to talk to people and have provided information online and through various newsletters.

"We are looking at what people want places to be and then how to get them there," Gray said. "People said transportation should support communities, not the other way around. One of the things we did was to ask people to name their favorite place and then asked how they got there."

At this point in the process, "we're taking all this information and screening it," Gray said, adding that the plan is now being driven by Metro, the regional government.

Kelley also has been working with the Southwest Corridor Plan Committee, on which all the local cities are represented, and noted that there is no set date to get a plan enacted.

"To get something on the ground, we are looking at a 15-year timeframe from the end of the study," he said. "In 2013, decisions will be made - what kinds of transportation do people want? What kinds of communities do we want to encourage, and what do the communities desire to protect and enhance? What kind of transit do people want to serve their neighborhoods?"

He said the corridor plan includes looking at such issues as servicing underserved areas and if light rail really brings more crime.

A woman in the audience asked, "I wonder if light rail would disrupt something I like or make it worse?"

Gray replied that Tigard Mayor Craig Dirksen, who will join the Metro Council in January, has said that he would not support any transportation system that would take away a lane on Pacific Highway.

"Pacific Highway would be considered the spine of the corridor, but it is not necessarily the route everyone wants - maybe it should be a network," she said.

Wine pointed out that many communities are doing their own studies, which will all have to be considered when looking at the whole picture.

According to Kelley, the intersection of Pacific Highway and Durham Road "pops up a lot as a place with great potential for a good transit system."

He added, "There is relatively low-automobile ownership in the area, there is good sidewalk connectivity, and it is very walkable. Those are factors that would create a good transit stop. People in King City and Summerfield want to see more transit service. However, one of the challenges is to create it without requiring people to walk across 99W."

On the November ballot in Tigard is a measure that asks if the city should be required to get voter approval before authorizing new or additional taxes or fees for light rail construction.

In King City, voters in September approved a measure that would prevent the city from spending resources on the design, construction or implementation of a light rail system without voter approval.

For more information on the Southwest Corridor Plan, visit www.swcorridorplan.org.