Powell-Division Steering Committee Advances Transit Action Plan

Powell-Division Steering Committee Advances Transit Action Plan

As set forth in the June 2015 Transit Action Plan published by the Powell-Division Transit and Development Project:

The Steering Committee has unanimously advanced the Tilikum Crossing to cross the Willamette River; unanimously advanced 82nd Avenue and chose to continue studying 50th and 52nd Avenues; and advanced three route options (Main/223rd, Cleveland, and Hogan Road) to connect to Stark Street and Mt Hood Community College.

As set forth in the Plan, from 2015 to 2017, the Project will create a detailed design of the new transit line and station areas, and complete environmental review and permitting.  From 2018 to 2020, the transit line and station areas will be constructed.

For more on this bus rapid transit project, see my previous posts here and here.

Bus Rapid Transit for Powell-Division Project Says Steering Committee

Bus Rapid Transit for Powell-Division Project Says Steering Committee

The steering committee for Metro’s Powell-Division transit project has spoken.  Moving forward, it will focus on bus rapid transit (BRT) options, dropping from considering street car and light rail options.

As reported by Metro:

The unanimous vote came as committee members said they were focused more on a project that could be built soon and require substantially less private property acquisition and roadway impacts than a rail project.

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The committee also voted unanimously to focus on a transit route that would use Powell Boulevard in inner Portland, then jog north to Division Street somewhere between 52nd and 92nd avenues, before heading east to Gresham. The route could then extend as far east as the Mt. Hood Community College campus near Troutdale.

For more on the Powell-Division project, see my earlier post.

Powell-Division Transit and Development Project: Metro Plans Another Move in High Capacity Transit

Powell-Division Transit and Development Project:  Metro Plans Another Move in High Capacity Transit

Metro is moving forward with preliminary planning for its “Powell-Division Transit and Development Project.”  For this “high capacity transit” project–meaning most likely light rail or bus rapid transit–Metro is currently soliciting input from the public and the Project’s steering committee regarding transit type, route, station areas, and redevelopment opportunities.  Similar to Metro’s “Southwest Corridor” planning, such move was foretold by Metro’s 2009 High Capacity Transit Plan, which sets forth its vision and priority for high capacity transit projects across the Portland metropolitan area.

The Powell-Division corridor, as currently envisioned, stretches from downtown Portland to Gresham.  As the name of the Project indicates, the corridor centers on SE Powell Boulevard and SE Division Street for much of its length.  A “Project Atlas” published by Metro provides a many-layered view of the corridor area.

As noted above, the planning for the Project is currently in its public input phase, after which the Project team will decide on a preferred mode of transit and preferred route.   The Project’s published timeline, from its most recent fact sheet, indicates that the Project team will make a final decision on mode and route recommendations in Winter 2015.

Whatever route and mode of high capacity transit is ultimately chosen, many properties, homes and businesses will likely be impacted.  While many elements of the Project appear to serve legitimate public purposes, whether the owners of the impacted properties will receive the just compensation to which they are constitutionally entitled is a wholly different matter.  It will also be interesting to see how the Project implements its development goals.

 

Southwest Corridor Planning: Metro’s Next Move in High Capacity Transit

Metro has set its sights on the “Southwest Corridor” as the region’s next area for construction of “high capacity transit,” meaning most likely light rail or rapid bus transit.  Such move was foretold by Metro’s 2009 High Capacity Transit Plan, which sets forth its vision and priority for high capacity transit projects across the Portland metropolitan area.

The Southwest Corridor, as currently envisioned, stretches from downtown Portland to Tualatin.  It centers on SW Barbur Blvd/99W for much of its route, working its way through Tigard, and then south through the Bridgeport area to downtown Tualatin.

The planning for the project is currently in its “refinement phase,” in which the stakeholders will zero in on a preferred mode of transit and preferred route.  “Recommended routes for further discussion” are set forth in Metro staff’s May 5, 2014 report. The Project’s published timeline indicates that the Project’s steering committee will make a final decision on design options in June 2014.

Whatever route and mode of high capacity transit is ultimately chosen, many properties, homes and businesses will likely be impacted.  While this Project appears to serve a legitimate public purpose, whether the owners of the impacted properties will receive the just compensation to which they are constitutionally-entitled is a wholly different matter.

 

Columbia River Crossing: Will the Oregon-led “Phase 1” Move Forward?

The Columbia River Crossing lives.  At least for now.  After the Washington legislature balked at funding its $450 million share of the project’s budget in June 2013, Oregon pushed forward with plans to construct “Phase 1” of the project.  The Oregon-led Phase 1 would pare back the original scope of the project by eliminating all I-5 interchange improvements north of Washington’s SR 14.  Coming it at over $2.7 billion, the project would include construction of the new bridge spans, light rail facilities from Portland’s Expo Center to Vancouver’s Clark College, I-5 interchange improvements in Oregon, and I-5 interchange improvements in Washington at SR 14.  Without Washington’s contribution, funding would primarily come from federal funds, funds from the State of Oregon, and financing backed by tolling revenue.  See ODOT’s project webpage for more details.

Uncertainty still surrounds the project, though.  As has been well-covered in the media, an analysis of prospective tolling revenue shows it could arguably support the financing of a significant part of the project’s cost.  (The Oregonian: January 7, 2014).  Oregon’s Treasurer, however, still needs convincing that Oregon can legally and effectively collect the tolls.   (The Columbian:  January 10, 2014).   Beyond this, at recent hearing in Salem, legislators did not exactly give the project’s proponents a warm reception.  (The Oregonian:  January 14, 2014).  All of this is not to say that Phase 1 will not move forward; just that the project continues to face substantial challenges.

Beyond the financial and political questions, legal questions also remain.  While the General Counsel Division of Oregon’s Department of Justice opined in a September 12, 2013 memorandum that ODOT has the authority, given certain necessary agreements with the State of Washington, to move forward with the financing and construction of project elements located in Washington, DOJ has made clear that ODOT does not have the power to acquire right of way through eminent domain in the State of Washington.  To this point, the memorandum states as follows:

This proposal implicates key attributes of state sovereignty.  For example, the State of Oregon is without authority to exercise eminent domain outside its borders.  Moreover, we are informed by attorneys in the Washington Attorney General’s Office that WSDOT cannot transfer title to WSDOT right-of-way to ODOT.  Thus, ODOT will need WSDOT to secure right of way for the bridge touchdown and corresponding connections to SR-14 and provide ODOT with a long-term lease or other permit to occupy WSDOT right-of-way for, at minimum, the repayment period of Oregon’s bonds, which could exceed 30 years.  We are further informed by WSDOT’s counsel that WSDOT engineering approval must be granted to locate Oregon highway facilities on WSODT right-of-way and link it to the Washington state highway system.

Oregon DOJ memoranda and the “information” of attorneys in the Washington AG’s office may provide preliminary guidance to the project’s decision makers on “key attributes of state sovereignty,” but, if and as the project moves forward, actions based upon such guidance will likely be subject to judicial scrutiny.

On all counts, it should be interesting.  Stay tuned.

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