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Portland to Milwaukie MAX project picks up momentum

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - SMILEs official representative to the MAX project, Teresa Pucik, questioned why changes in the Bybee Station had been made without letting neighbors know. THE BEE followed up, and these changes are detailed in the accompanying story.When members of the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) for the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project met on January 17th, they learned from project leaders that more contractors and their workers were actively building the light rail line than at any other time, so far, in the project’s history.

In the conference room of the Project East Field Office on S.E. Beta Street in Milwaukie, CAC Chair Rick Williams welcomed attendees.

Rob Barnard, TriMet Project Director, reviewed the financing – saying that the TriMet portion of the funding will come from increased payroll tax revenues that were authorized in 2009 to fund the new service.

TriMet’s match share of the project is about 4%, Barnard explained, and half of the remainder comes from the federal government. “Discretionary funds for the federal share can go anywhere in the nation – but we'd rather have them here, to provide local jobs.”

He added that TriMet was then just “steps away” from finalizing the Full Funding Grant Agreements, expected to be signed in May.

Leah Robbins, TriMet Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail East Segment Director, commented on the construction progress, which included:

· Clinton to River Multi-use Path

· Powell and Holgate area work

· Crystal Springs Creek Crossing

· Tacoma Street - Johnson Creek Station

· Work being done in Milwaukee

· Kellogg structure, and trolley rail construction

· Park Avenue

We're about 30% completed, and on target to open in 2015, Robbins said.

After the formal presentations, the question came up as to how long the construction work on S.E. 11th and 12th Avenues would continue.

Robbins said some of the work going on now is private utility work, in preparation for light rail construction. She added that the City of Portland was also performing sewer work in the area. While we cannot direct the private utilities, we are coordinating with them, as well as with the City sewer project, she said.

During the roundtable discussion, SMILE representative Teresa Pucik said, I'd like more information on the Crystal Springs Culvert. Weve had flooding there before. In the presentation, the graphics didnt show the new culvert to be any wider or longer.

Robbins replied that the City and TriMet are designing the culvert. Natural resources agencies are reviewing the project in detail, she added, and will have to provide criteria for hydrology and habitat.

After the meeting, Teresa Pucik told THE BEE, “I was surprised to learn that they’ve made changes to the Bybee Station. They said they’ve redesigned it as a cost-saving measure, but we don't know what the changes are.”

To learn more, THE BEE contacted TriMet, asking how the station had been redesigned – and why neighbors who’d met at length regarding its design weren’t informed of the changes.

“The look and feel of the station will be as represented,” replied TriMet Community Affairs Representative Jennifer Koozer, a Sellwood resident. “We understand how important the design of this station is to the neighbors. We’re keeping the same design.”

To save money, Koozer said, the material for the structural members had been changed from a structural cruciform material to a square tube. “It was more of a structural engineering change, not a redesign of the station.”

Another “slight change” is that the station will be a “couple of feet wider” to accommodate it being a prototype access-control station with turnstiles.

An additional difference is the light fixtures. “There won’t be tall light fixtures on the stairways; lighting will be integrated into the stairways,” Koozer told THE BEE.