Vote allows planners to continue studying project

Metro, the regional government, has thrown its support behind the Southwest Corridor Plan, creating a basic framework for the years-long study, which could eventually bring a light-rail line to Tigard and Tualatin.

On Oct. 31, the Metro Council voted to support the plans that the agency has been working on for years, according to Nick Christensen, a reporter with Metro.

The agency has been working alongside TriMet and area cities to plan for growth in the areas over the next several years. Those plans also include the possibility of bringing either a light-rail line or bus rapid-transit system to Tigard, Tualatin and Portland.

"We're looking forward to what the development of the Southwest Corridor can do for us," said Tigard City Councilor Gretchen Buehner at Metro’s meeting.

The endorsement creates a basic structure for the project and makes it easier for new development.

The project is about more than just bringing transit options to the area. The plan also calls for millions of dollars worth of land-use changes, including parks projects and widening area roads.

Metro’s endorsement is far from unique. It’s a decision being taken up by cities and governments across the region.

So far, seven of the eight cities in the corridor have voted to support the project.  

In October, the Tigard City Council threw its support behind the plan.

Tigard transportation planner Judith Gray said in October that endorsing the Southwest Corridor Plan meant the city could continue to research the plan and study the two transit options — light rail and bus rapid transit — but doesn’t make any final decisions on the project, such as what type of transit line will be built, or where transit stops will be located.

“This endorsement won’t change policies or plans. It doesn’t commit any funds or commit any transportation projects,” she said.

The project isn’t without opposition. The political action group Roads Not Rails has formally opposed the plans, saying the agency is attempting to circumvent the will of residents by bringing a MAX light-rail line or bus rapid-transit line through town without a public vote.

The group has placed a ballot measure on a special election ballot in March, which would force a vote before any new high-capacity transit corridor is built within the city and effectively prohibit the city from planning for a high-capacity transit line without telling voters exactly how much of the roadway would be taken up by the line, what changes are expected in housing density or land-use regulations and a projected cost of the project.

Tigard already has a similar, but less restrictive, law on the books, which calls for a vote of the people if the city plans to raise taxes or fines in order to build a light-rail line through town.

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