Transportation Summit opens the floor to citizens, task force

Tualatin’s Transportation Summit last week was a chance for residents to review proposed transportation projects and voice their concerns before the city’s Transportation System Plan is approved later this year.

Tualatin’s current plan dates back to 2001.

The aim of the Sept. 20 summit was to assess the value of proposed transit projects in six areas, including whether they contributed to safety, a vibrant community, equity in the city, the health and environment, the city’s economics and how easy they are to implement. The summit’s main objective was to determine which projects should be included in the plan that will outline priorities through 2035.

The public had the opportunity to review the projects in July and August on the TSP Ideas Map, an interactive online program.

The City Council voted Sept. 10 to remove the controversial Hall Boulevard extension proposal from the plan. The project would have connected Southwest Tualatin Road with Southwest Hall Boulevard in Tigard via a two-lane road and a bridge over the Tualatin River. Citizens and several city councilors roundly rejected the proposal, citing negative environmental impacts, specifically to Cook Park wetlands.

After an hour-long presentation from the TSP technical team, the summit was opened for public comment.

The majority of residents were in agreement: Getting around in Tualatin was becoming increasingly difficult, and solutions were needed to allow healthy traffic flow to local businesses — but not at the price of the city’s identity or sense of community.

Brad Parker, a Tualatin resident who owns a LA-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries franchise in town, argued that the city is “a confluence of the 217 and the 5” and that Tualatin stood for diversity.

“We’re going to become like Dundee,” he warned, claiming that by rejecting too many transit improvement projects, Tualatin would effectively undermine the success of its local businesses and become too insular.

Reba Tobey, a 10-year Tualatin resident, argued that the city was “a drive-through community.”

“Traffic should be routed around outside the city,” she said. “To destroy our natural resources and community” in order to expedite traffic flow from surrounding areas “is ridiculous.”

After the public forum, the task force focused primarily on whether to include two high-profile proposals in the plan.

The first was a proposed 65th Avenue extension, which aimed to relieve traffic congestion from Boones Ferry Road by constructing a bridge over the Tualatin River and into River Grove. Three proposed models for this were presented, including a low-impact and no-impact model.

Modeling for each option used forecasted population and employment trends from Portland State University’s Population Center. Mayor Lou Ogden asked the technical team to come back with a new metric: projected travel times for each option.

The task force was asked to reach full consensus on the proposal, but was unable to by the end of the summit.

Several task force members, including City Councilor Monique Beikman, objected to what they viewed as making a decision for River Grove.

“If Rover Grove was not willing to build it on their side, then we’re building a bridge to nowhere, and we’re wasting our time,” she said. “It’s going to cut their city in half.”

Other members of the task force, however, objected to purging the proposal completely from the plan.

“My view of the world is that things do change over time,” said Steven Kelley, a representative from Washington County. “One of the things I’d like to point out is we have all of these traffic analyses, but people don’t generally see the way that traffic gets worse. It gets worse in a non-linear way. There’s an exponential point. If these models do show up being true, there’s going to be a lot more congestion.”

Bill Beers reiterated that the plan itself was for Tualatin. “We’re trying to make decisions that would benefit our community, not to the exclusion of other communities,” he said. “River Grove doesn’t think it’s a good idea today. But I think we should have it in there to talk about it” in the future.

Ogden reminded the group that the project would be a long-term one. “The funding takes decades and decades and decades ... look at 124th, that’s been going on for 30 years. If you leave it in the plan, we’re talking a half a century, in my opinion.”

Of the members present, six supported keeping the 65th Avenue extension proposal in the plan, with four objecting, and two undecided. The task force will revisit the proposal during its Oct. 4 meeting.

An alternative proposal focused on Boones Ferry Road north of Martinazzi and “low build” options including widening the road without extending 65th Avenue, as well as an option with no widening of Boones Ferry Road.

This idea received even less support, with six members voting against including the project in the plan, and only three supporting its inclusion.

The next Transportation Task Force meeting will be held Thursday, Oct. 4, at 5 p.m. at Tualatin City Hall.

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