As Clackamas County Chair, I have grown increasingly disappointed with other regional government leaders prioritizing billions in light rail mass transit over fixing the traffic congestion problems that our county residents are so frustrated with. Worsening traffic congestion affects not only Clackamas County’s businesses but our residents who commute in and out of the county every day. We can no longer ignore this problem.
Clackamas County’s own 5.9 mile portion of Interstate 205 is a choke point for the region, as well as an intrastate and interstate concern. It has been declared by the Federal government to be a “High Priority Corridor,” but solutions have yet to be funded.
There are three major, regional traffic choke points that have been identified: I-205, Hwy 217, and the I-5/I-84 Rose Quarter. The preliminary estimate to fix all three of these bottlenecks is approximately $1.4 Billion. Keep this figure in mind while I tell you about Trimet’s plan for the Southwest Corridor.
The Southwest Corridor Light Rail would remove vehicle lanes from Portland’s 99W/Barbur Boulevard, squeeze up against 1-5 in other places and serve no key destinations on route to its terminus at Tualatin’s Bridgeport Village. The projected cost is now nearly $3 Billion…that’s $250 Million per mile! With absolutely no traffic relief! The state, region and local jurisdictions will have to come up with half of the funding. Meaning Clackamas County taxpayers will be paying for a huge part while our priorities are unfunded. I have made official requests to both Metro and Trimet as to the amount of money already spent on this project. No response yet.
As you may recall in September of 2012, Clackamas County voters approved a citizen’s initiative that requires a public vote on light rail expansion. That initiative passed primarily because residents were concerned that they had no voice regarding huge light rail project commitments by the county, while not enough was being done about traffic congestion. Voters in Tigard also passed a citizen’s initiative that requires a public vote for light rail to go forward. That initiative is now proving to be a pivotal moment for the region’s addiction to costly light rail transit, as the future of SW Corridor hangs on the outcome of the Tigard light rail expansion measure this November.
Why should Clackamas County residents care about light rail expansion into Tigard? Because this massive project is consuming regional tax dollars, your tax dollars. Your tax dollars are funding mass transit in a different county, draining our ability to fix road congestion here at home.
Why aren’t our regional partners and Congressional representatives prioritizing federal lobbying efforts on traffic congestion relief? We all know how bad traffic has gotten in this region year by year. Our public institutions continue to disproportionately fund light rail instead of spending money towards traffic relief for commuters, service providers, commercial deliveries, the trucking industry and emergency vehicles.
As your Chair, I will continue to ask the tough questions of our regional partners and focus my efforts on the priorities that matter to Clackamas County residents. With limited, precious resources, we have to shift our focus to traffic relief and reducing road congestion, rather than exorbitant light rail mass transit projects that take away road lanes.
I want to thank all of you for your support and I kindly ask for your vote once again this November. Thank you.
(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Northwest Connection.)