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Tualatin council approves transit plan

After year-long process, plan sets framework for future road projects


by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE. - Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden, center, and Councilor Ed Truax, along the rest of the council, listen to testimony during a Feb. 11 public hearing about the Transportation System Plan update. Both men voted against its approval Monday night. After a public hearing that lasted more than two hours, the Tualatin City Council voted five to two to approve updates to the city’s Transportation System Plan Monday night.

Mayor Lou Ogden and Councilor Ed Truax voted in opposition to the plan.

This concludes a more than year-long process consisting of 16 Transportation Task Force meetings and several calls for public input, including an interactive Tualatin TSP Ideas Map opened for public comment last summer and a town hall-style Tualatin Transportation Summit held this past September. The council was expected to hold its final public hearing on Feb. 11, but the city was obligated to open its Monday night session to further comment because officials neglected to post a 10-day public notice prior to the previous meeting.

Many citizens expressed fatigue with the transportation plan update and approval process, while others objected to what they viewed as the new plan’s lack of substance, alleging that none of the more than 100 proposed improvement projects would actually decrease commute time in the city.

Alisa Cour, public and community relations specialist for Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center, read a letter on behalf of the hospital’s Chief Administration Officer Allyson Anderson, who detailed her concerns that the plan didn’t go far enough to address “major transportation issues that affect health and safety,” emphasizing the hospital’s need to provide quick access to emergency responders transporting patients in critical condition.

Anderson wrote, “1.9 million neurons in the brain are lost per untreated minute for the temporal stroke patient. Traffic congestion is not just a mere inconvenience, it can determine a critical patient’s outcome.”

State law requires that cities implement transportation system plans and update them every 10 years. Tualatin’s plan was last updated in 2001, and the newest draft has an understood planning horizon of 2035.

Three major project proposals were removed from various drafts of the updated plan, which means they cannot be considered for implementation in the next 10 years.

The removal of the Southwest 65th Avenue Extension was the least contentious, with both City Council and many residents concerned by the project’s likely averse environmental impact. Due in large part to the imposition the project posed to the city of Rivergrove, the 65th Avenue Extension was not considered for traffic analysis or impact studies prior to being redlined.

But two other proposed projects — the Lower Boones Ferry Bridge project and the Hall Boulevard Extension — were also excluded from the plan without prior study, angering Ogden and many residents.

Ogden noted that an overwhelming majority of Tualatin residents cited traffic as Tualatin’s top issue.

“Though we’ve improved many intersections, I’m distressed to know that we’ve done nothing to reduce travel times throughout town” in the finalized plan, Ogden said.

He praised the Transportation Task Force’s work, but questioned whether the resulting list of improvement projects reflected “the general will of the population,” arguing that of the 84 people who participated in the task force, only 26 attended more than two meetings.

“It’s not about bridges. It’s not about big corporate interest or collusion or my fetish that we’ve got to keep the old TSP,” Ogden said. “I would encourage an amendment that would actually do more analysis on the travel times, or a hold-off of the TSP until it’s vetted through the (citizen involvement organizations) in great detail, and everyone in the community has a chance to address that question, of ‘Do you want to address travel times or not?’”

Truax said that after two sessions of public comment, he had seen no support for the plan based on its actual merit.

“And as I look at this plan and discuss it with the engineers in the work session that we had, there is almost no statistical difference between adopting all the projects in the low-build option, and adopting the no-build option,” Truax said. “So being fiscally conservative and bowing to that suggestion, I will vote to adopt this plan tonight, but only the no-build option, because it accomplishes everything the low-build options does, and costs hundreds of millions of dollars less.”

City Council President Monique Beikman took issue with Ogden’s assessment that the task force’s conclusions did not accurately reflect public opinion.

“It doesn’t matter how many people attended. It was citizen involvement,” Beikman said. “We should applaud ourselves for the amount of participation we did get.”

“This is not the end of it,” she added. “This is a plan.”

Councilor Nancy Grimes was more optimistic about the plan’s impact.

“We’ve improved so many failing intersections and brought them up, which gets people through intersections faster, it gets the wait time down,” she said. “It improves the safety at intersections. All of those things, if it doesn’t necessarily shave two minutes off, it’s still going to make getting around this city easier.”

“I don’t think it’s the be-all, end-all document,” Grimes added. “It’s the beginning, and it’s the framework for a really good conversation. And I would be so disappointed if after tonight, the conversation stopped.”



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