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Public input sought on Southwest Corridor project

Metro plans surveys, open house to gather feedback on plans.

PMG FILE PHOTO - The Southwest Corridor Project could change the streetscape of Southwest Barbur Boulevard in Portland.The proposed MAX line between Portland and Tualatin faces a potential life-or-death vote in Tigard at the November general election. Nevertheless, Metro is soliciting public comments on the larger Southwest Corridor Plan that includes it.

A 30-day "scoping period" is underway through Oct. 3. It includes a Sept. 22 open house and two online surveys on many elements of the proposed project, including potential light rail routes and station alternatives, related road, bicycle and pedestrian projects, and which kinds of impacts to the natural and built environment should be studied.

The public comment period is necessary to qualify for federal funds that could pay for half the project. But Tigard voters could derail the entire project by rejecting a new light rail line in their city. That vote is required under an earlier measure approved by city voters.

The Southwest Corrridor project, estimated to cost $2.4 billion to $2.8 billion, is currently being overseen by Metro, the elected regional government. Metro is seeking comments on the potential broad community, socioeconomic and environmental justice impacts of the project, including those caused or mitigated by specific active transportation proposals.

Some major decisions have yet to be made, including the exact alignment of the light rail line. It remains to be determined along which existing roadways the line would travel coming out of Portland, as well as what route through Tigard it would take.

Another key element of the light rail line that has not been decided is whether the MAX would stop at downtown Tigard on its way to Bridgeport Village, the expected terminus for the line, or whether it would branch off through Tigard, with some trains terminating in downtown Tigard and others continuing on another track to Bridgeport Village.

In addition to the new light rail line, intensive new residential and commercial development is predicted along it, especially around where the MAX stations would be located.

Such potential changes helped prompt Tigard voters to approve a previous initiative measure requiring a public vote on any new light rail project in their city. Measure 34-255, on the ballot in November, would allow the City Council to approve an ordinance in favor of extending light rail service to Tigard.

TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane has said the light rail component of the project will be canceled if the measure fails. Other regional elected and transportation officials have not yet concurred.

Tigard Mayor John L. Cook is chairing the campaign encouraging voters to approve the measure. He told The Times last month that he is optimistic about its chances in the November election.

There are several ways to provide feedback during the scoping process. They include two online surveys and an upcoming open house.

After this public feedback period, the Southwest Corridor Plan Steering Committee — including leaders from Metro, TriMet, seven cities within the corridor, Washington County and the Oregon Department of Transportation — will meet in November and December to review the comments and make decisions about what should be studied in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) review required by the federal government.

The review will begin in early 2017. A draft EIS will be released for public comment in early 2018. It will help shape the steering committee's final decisions about the route, station locations and design of the light rail line, including related projects to build with it and actions to mitigate the project's impacts.