Agenda Item #103 – 1/28/15 – Southwest Corridor Plan

Let’s talk transit.

Item #103 on the City of Portland’s Council Agenda this week is

*103  TIME CERTAIN: 10:30 AM – Authorize an Intergovernmental Agreement with Metro to develop a Preferred Alternative Package, Locally Preferred Alternative and Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Southwest Corridor Plan and fund   the City share of the local partner agency contribution  (Ordinance introduced by Commissioner Novick)   30 minutes requested.

According to the ordinance, the City, Metro and TriMet have “initiated a comprehensive land use and transportation planning study to create a plan that will identify and prioritize public investments in the Southwest Corridor. The Southwest Corridor is a transportation corridor that located between Southwest Portland and Sherwood.” Collaborators on the plan include Washington County, ODOT, and seven individual cities.

Here’s Metro’s take on the plan

According to Metro’s website, “From late 2013 throughout 2014, the Southwest Corridor Plan partners conducted a focused refinement study of the usage, community benefits, traffic impact and potential costs of some high capacity transit options. Moving forward in 2015, the Plan partners will use these refined concepts as they work with community stakeholders to create a set of diverse transportation solutions for this thriving part of our region.”

Interestingly, in a very beautiful final report Shared Investment Strategy by Metro, there is very little in the way of discussion of funding.

“Recommendation: Develop a collaborative funding strategy for the Southwest Corridor Plan. Project partners should work together to develop a funding strategy that includes local, regional, state and federal sources. This could include innovative financing tools and non-transportation funding for parks and natural areas.”

Even Commissioner Novick is concerned about costs. Back in June Novick told Willamette Week “the cost of a tunnel could run as high as $2 billion—with local governments footing half the bill. ‘We should have a community conversation about the tab,’ Novick tells WW. ‘The decision shouldn’t be based simply on having the service without a discussion of paying the costs.’”

The entire project got a bit more complicated for light rail enthusiasts as Tigard, Tualatin, and King City residents passed measures that requires all high capacity transit projects be approved by voters first. There is a signature gathering campaign currently underway for all of Washington County. Some of the questions Tualatin residents were asking officials before their vote can be found here. This article also contains some nifty maps.


Back in May, 2014 Tualatin residents asked where the money for this project would come from. “Though Metro isn’t relying on federal funding as much as it did in years past, Wilkinson said they’re still holding out for some help from the feds.

“It is challenging,” she said. “We have our fingers crossed. We believe that there will be more federal funding to come in the future.””

Ummm… They have their fingers crossed? Spending a couple of million dollars on plans and studies on a wing and a prayer funding? No wonder Tigard, Tualatin, and possibly all of Washington County wants to vote before moving forward.

By June, planners hit the brakes a bit as huge questions of routing and funding still loom. The new focus on “Locally Preferred Alternative” is obviously a nod to the cities that could derail the project with a public vote, and this week’s ordinance seems to be throwing money at finding a way to get high capacity transit and get around the local resistance movements.

The spending of $500,000 plus $150,000 for City staff cited in the ordinance was already approved previously in the regular budget cycle. This isn’t the end of the money needed for the study phase.

Screenshot 2015-01-25 21.04.57

(From the supporting documents to Item #103)

How is this project moving forward with only fingers-crossed financing? This reminds us a bit of the ol’ CRC — huge snags in the water, but millions of dollars spent on the studies and plans anyway. For the City of Portland to gain the trust of the public, this issue must be addressed before moving forward with the Southwest Corridor Plan.