The final meeting of the Powell-Division Transit and Development Project Steering Committee took place Nov. 7 at Gresham City Hall. It was the 12th meeting since 2014. The committee gave almost unanimous approval to the locally preferred alternative (LPA) for a new transportation corridor between Gresham and downtown Portland. The committee also expressed support for Tilikum Crossing as its bridge of choice, rather than the Hawthorne Bridge.
The committee worked with professional planners, surveyed public opinion and received public comment to formulate the LPA. The form of transportation (bus rapid transit (BRT) using articulated buses), the route on the corridor and its termination points and the location of stops were included in it.
During public comments, Jim Howell of the Association of Rail and Transit Advocates, which has steadfastly put forward an alternate transportation plan, reminded the committee that fewer bus stops means fewer opportunities for federal funding for crosswalks. A representative of the fiscally minded website Debunking Portland said that cars are the most economical form of transportation per passenger.
Since the previous meeting, there had been extensive consultations between committee members and Metro, the city of Portland and TriMet, with the result that three out of the four “red” votes turned “yellow” in a new poll. The lone holdout was Kem Marks, a government administration professional voting on the behalf of the East Portland Action Plan. Raahi Reddy of the Asian-Pacific American Network of Oregon, one of the new converts to “yellow,” said they should “expect better” than just an express bus for time and effort put into the project.
The project had become “more and more threadbare and less and less dramatic” as it developed, committee co-chair Bob Stacey conceded. “We all recognize there’s more work to be done,” he said. However, his colleague Shirley Craddick later praised the committee for “setting a new standard for how community decision-making is made.” She also told the committee that she “enjoyed having you push back.”
“Good governance is about listening,” committee member and Gresham City Councilor Lori Stegmann said.
Adjustments will be made to the committee’s recommendation to “memorialize” members’ continuing concerns.
The Gresham City Council will vote on adopting the LPA on Dec. 6. The Portland City Council will vote the next day. On Dec. 14, the TriMet board of directors will vote on it, followed by the Multnomah County Commission the next day, and the Metro Council will vote on it in the spring. After that, TriMet will take the lead in the process, filing an application for federal funding in the summer.
After settling their position on the LPA, the discussion turned to crossing the river, although it is not formally part of the committee’s recommendation. Using Tilikum Crossing would make the trip to downtown Portland 3.5 minutes slower than traveling over the Hawthorne Bridge. But it would make the trip to PSU 8 minutes faster and the trip to OHSU 16 minutes faster. The trip from 174th Avenue to Urban Plaza at PSU on the BRT crossing Tilikum would be 18 minutes faster than on the Number 4 bus.
The main cause for reservations about a Tilikum route was the long delay caused by Union Pacific trains at Southeast Eighth Avenue. It was discovered after discussions with UPRR representatives at the Brooklyn railyard that improvements in the switching system could reduce the time the street is blocked for train passage and improve safety. It was noted that, in the winter of 2015, there was an average of a single delay per day at the tracks that lasted longer than 10 minutes. “Several million” dollars left over from the construction of the MAX Orange Line could be used by the railroad for improvements, Stacey said. Reddy observed that the railroad is the only private company that the money could go to, since the laws that apply to railroads differ considerably from those for other companies.
The committee voted to support the use of Tilikum Crossing on the BRT route with four “yellow” votes and no “red” votes.
The meeting ended early.
Metro is seeking three volunteers from the community to join 15 transportation professionals and three other community members on its Transportation Policy Alternatives Committee starting in January. The committee advises the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation, as well as local and regional leaders, on transportation investment priorities and policies related to transportation. Selection criteria and application instructions can be found on the Metro website. The application deadline is Dec. 9.