Portland moves forward with Southwest Corridor light rail

(KATU Photo)

Portland City Council moved forward Thursday with a plan to bring a new light rail line to the Southwest Corridor, connecting downtown Portland to Tigard.

The next move for the project is to have Tigard City Council as well as the Metro sign off on the plan. Both moves are expected to happen later this month.

Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, whose term is up at the end of the year, warned the project is a long way from becoming a reality, as the vast majority of the project remains unfunded.

Construction on the line could begin as early as 2021. The target date for ridership is 2027. Metro is working with city leaders from Portland and Tigard to create a strategy to cut down on displacement of current residents along Barbur Boulevard.

"To make sure when a transportation investment goes into a community like this that we support providing affordable housing and prioritizing affordable housing that currently exists," said Eryn Deeming Kehe with Metro. "That we enhance the workforce development in the area too, so that we support all the aspects of the area."

The project is set to be the costliest MAX line expansion in TriMet history. The current price tag is estimated at $2.6 billion.

Regional leaders say the line is needed since it's estimated to carry 20 percent of all traffic commuting to and from Tigard into downtown Portland once it's built. Traffic along I-5 is also expected to get worse, as an estimated 75,000 people are coming to the Southwest Corridor.

Projections from Metro show I-5 will have delays for 17 hours a day. Metro is also working with other leaders and businesses to cut down on the amount of businesses that are pushed out by the development. It's also exploring some form of jobs training so that people along Barbur Boulevard have an opportunity to work at some of the job centers that are anticipated to come to the area.

"We're doing something different this time, trying to chart new ground and make sure that we get better," Deeming Kehe said.

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