Council delays vote by two weeks

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE -  City Councilor Monique Beikman, Mayor Lou Ogden and Councilor Ed Truax listen to Wendie Kellington of the Tonquin Industrial Group voice conerns about the Southwest 124th Avenue extension during Monday night's public hearing on the updated Transportation System Plan. Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden announced to a packed house on Monday that the City Council would postpone its vote on whether to adopt Tualatin’s updated Transportation System Plan.

Because the city failed to post a notice of a public hearing 10 days in advance, the council is obliged to open its Feb. 25 session for further public comment. The council will then vote to either approve the TSP in its current form or to submit previously redlined proposed projects for further study before finalizing plan.

Oregon law stipulates that cities must implement a transportation system plan and update it every 10 years. Tualatin’s current TSP dates back to 2001. While the updated TSP will feature proposed projects relevant to the city’s 10-year plan, it also takes into account a 2035 planning horizon.

Despite the task force’s efforts to collaborate with Tualatin residents through open houses, public discussion and an online project map forum, opinions were divided at the last juncture of the TSP approval process.

Monday’s council meeting was meant to conclude a more than year-long process, which included 16 Transportation Task Force meetings and regular calls for public input. But at Monday’s meeting, disagreement largely centered on whether the decision to remove two specific proposed projects from the TSP was too hasty.

There was little controversy around the council’s decision in early November to strike the Southwest 65th Avenue extension from the TSP. The council cited the project’s widespread lack of support, specifically from both councilors and residents concerned by the environmental impact and the imposition the project would pose to the neighboring city of Rivergrove. The 65th Avenue extension was not considered for traffic analysis or an impact study and will not be included in the updated TSP.

But the exclusion of the Lower Boones Ferry Bridge project and the Hall Boulevard extension was problematic for many residents who felt dropping the two projects without further study would limit Tualatin and render the updated TSP ineffective.

Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Linda Moholt was first to comment during the public hearing. Speaking on behalf of the chamber, she urged the council to decline the current draft of the TSP to allow for further study of major transportation projects.

But Jan Giunta, a former City Council candidate who sat on the task force as a representative of Tualatin’s citizen involvement organizations, urged the council to “adopt the TSP as written, and vote ‘no’ on further study of projects.” She expressed concern about the Hall Boulevard extension in particular.

Kevin O’Malley, president of the Chamber of Commerce board, agreed with the chamber’s remarks to the council but stated that he spoke for himself when he expressed frustration with what he viewed as the TSP’s information gap.

“We can’t eliminate any projects without knowing the facts,” O’Malley said. “The council should have the benefit of facts about projects that are on the TSP” before they are summarily dropped.

Many residents — including task force member Dorothy Moore — felt the technical review of proposed TSP projects had been sufficient, and were eager to see the plan passed without alteration or additional studies.

Cathy Holland stated that after reading Tigard and Lake Oswego’s respective transportation system plans, she was satisfied Tualatin’s updated plan “promotes economic development and ties the transportation system into the existing land-use system.”

But John Howorth, who served as an alternate citizen representative on the task force, argued that not all options for north-south connection should have been eliminated from the plan. He felt this happened as a result of what he referred to as the “65th Avenue outcry” and urged the council to explore north-south connectivity by reconsidering the Hall Boulevard extension.

“I encourage the council to engage consultants and to provide current traffic analysis,” Howorth said, before scrapping the proposed Hall extension completely.

At the close of Monday’s meeting, Mayor Ogden thanked the public for what he described as their “cogent remarks” and reminded those assembled that the public hearing would continue during the council’s Feb. 25 session.

City attorney Sean T. Brady added that the city would continue to accept written public comment through Feb. 25.

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