Metro OKs Portland-to- Milwaukie light-rail line
Vote means work begins in earnest on $1.4 billion project
By Matthew Graham
The Clackamas Review, Jul 24, 2008,
A $1.4 billion light-rail line connecting downtown Portland with Milwaukie got the green light Thursday afternoon.
Metro’s Council voted unanimously to approve the project’s land-use final order, putting the 6.5-mile line on track to be built mostly along existing rail track south through Portland’s redeveloping South Waterfront area, across the Willamette River on a new alternative transportation bridge, down Southeast 17th Avenue and then paralleling McLoughlin Boulevard to downtown Milwaukie.
Metro councilors said the project was necessary to the region’s public transportation system that could become more vital as fuel prices increased in the future.
“The heart and soul of Milwaukie has overwhelmingly supported this project,” said Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette, a former Milwaukie City Councilwoman who has worked on the light-rail project for nearly a decade.
“I want to see people taking light rail to our beautiful Riverfront Park,” she said. “I want to see people taking light rail to our new farmers market. I believe this will help revitalize downtown Milwaukie.”
Along the Tillamook line
The Portland-to-Milwaukie light-rail line has already received approval from several jurisdictions, including Portland, Milwaukie and Oregon City. Although they were just advisory votes, each jurisdiction expressed support for the project and hopes that it would boost the region’s economy.
Prior to Metro’s vote, 15 people testified on the project, nearly evenly split between those favoring the work and those opposed. Milwaukie Mayor Jim Bernard said he has long advocated for the light-rail line and urged Metro to find money that would extend it from Lake Road, where it could end, to Park Avenue, the city’s preferred terminus.
The planned 6.5-mile line would run from Southwest Jackson Street at Portland State University to the South Waterfront district, would cross the Willamette River near Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and travel south parallel to Highway 99E/McLoughlin Boulevard.
At the northern edge of Milwaukie’s north industrial area it would follow the heavy rail tracks of the Tillamook branch behind the industrial area, cutting through downtown Milwaukie and extending to Park Avenue in Oak Grove.
The project has been in the works for more than a decade. About 60 percent of the project’s funding (an estimated $750 million) would come from the federal government and $250 million from the state lottery funds.
With the vote of approval, Metro will start seeking definite funding for the project. Milwaukie has tentatively been told that its share will be $5 million. The adopted Tillamook alignment is also expected to cost $25 million less than what is referred to as the 2003 LPA, which would have run in front of and then cut through Milwaukie’s north industrial area.
The line is expected to have 25,000 trips a day by 2030.
Locally preferred alternative
Milwaukie’s main sticking point in its vote of approval was an extension to Park Avenue in Oak Grove, rather than the line terminating in downtown Milwaukie. That would cost between $100 million and $110 million because of the difficulty of crossing Kellogg Creek. Oregon’s Department of Transportation has said it opposes any road-level crossing of the creek along McLoughlin Boulevard.
But Bernard and representatives from TriMet said all of the parties at the table want the line extended to Park Avenue. TriMet plans a regional park-and-ride lot in the area with about 1,000 parking spaces.
A “locally preferred alternative” report, however, included a stipulation that if funding for the extension isn’t found, the line would end at Lake Road in downtown Milwaukie.
Metro: 'Yes' to Milwaukie light-rail line
Transit - The vote allows for a study and a request for $750 million in federal funds
Friday, July 25, 2008
DYLAN RIVERA and PETER ZUCKERMAN
The Oregonian Staff
After more than a decade of debate and a failed referendum, the Metro Council has unanimously endorsed plans to extend light rail from Portland to Milwaukie.
The $1.4 billion project would build the first Willamette River bridge in downtown Portland since 1973 and extend light rail to the growing southeast section of the metro area. The line would have a stop in the South Waterfront and the bridge would carry the Portland Streetcar, buses, bicyclists and pedestrians -- but no cars.
The vote clears the way for a more thorough study of the line and a request for $750 million in federal money.
The project also received unanimous though less-enthusiastic support Thursday from Clackamas County commissioners, who expressed concern about public outreach.
Regional leaders see the Milwaukie line as the fulfillment of a decades-long promise to connect the southeast metro area to downtown with mass transit. The line would put more than 22,000 households and almost 89,000 workers within walking distance of a rail station, Metro estimates.
Most Milwaukie-area elected officials have endorsed the rail line and worked to get money for it, including $250 million from the Legislature last year that gave the project a massive boost. That's a big change from the late 1990s, when voters there rejected it and recalled the mayor and two council members over rail and other concerns.
Carlotta Collette, a former Milwaukie City Council member who represents the area on the Metro Council, said the city's feelings have turned around. "The heart and soul of Milwaukie has overwhelmingly supported this project -- at farmers markets and neighborhood meetings."
The bridge would connect Oregon Health & Science University with the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and each plans to expand its campus beside the rail stations.
The line also would connect Southeast Portland neighborhoods such as Hosford-Abernethy, Brooklyn and Sellwood, and speed bus lines that now cross bridges farther south.
About a dozen people testified at the Metro Council. Some were skeptical that rail would reduce congestion but others were hopeful it could reduce dependency on cars.
At its southern reaches, the preferred route would run through Milwaukie beside a freight railroad known as the Tillamook Branch, stop at Lake Road in Milwaukie and end at Park Avenue in the Oak Grove section of Clackamas County.
Paul Savas, echoing complaints from other county residents at the commissioners meeting, said Clackamas County "failed Citizen Involvement 101." He and others said planners ignored concerns from Oak Grove residents and pooh-poohed worries about crime and lost business.
Commissioners noted that the county, TriMet and Metro have sent fliers and held open houses and public meetings about the proposed rail line.
Next week, transit planners expect to apply for federal permission to start preliminary engineering, a key step in landing federal money. If all goes well, the line could open in 2015.