Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tigard, Tualtin, Light Rail, Oh my?

Ogden weighs in on Southwest Corridor Plan

As Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden sees it, funding the Southwest Corridor Plan is a lot like a college savings plan.

“It’s like having a 1-year-old, and you decide your 1-year-old is going to go to college,” he said. “You decide you want your kid to go to (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Now you’ve got the next 17 years to figure out how to afford it.”
That’s part of why Ogden isn’t yet worried about Tigard voters’ March approval of ballot Measure 34-210, which gives the city veto power over the future of high-capacity transit passing through its town as part of a system connecting Portland, Tigard and Tualatin. While the measure focused on Tigard, its ripples are felt in every city in the Southwest Corridor, including Tualatin, where city officials say they will continue to study the project along with Metro and other regional planners.
“If you don’t plan, or at least go through the process of planning, then the answer is ‘no’ by default,” Ogden said. “And if you do plan, and you decide that after the planning it’s not a viable project, then you at least have reached that decision overtly.”
For that reason, Ogden is still committed to learning more about the Southwest Corridor options. Even though it’s years in the making, Ogden said he wants to know, and wants citizens to know, what exactly the plan will mean and what it will look like.
“It’s really far flung, but it makes good sense to at least pursue the planning process,” he said. “It’s not a pipe dream, but it’s very much a long-term plan.”
According to Juan Carlos Ocaña-Chíu, the senior public affairs specialist with Metro regional government, groundbreaking is at least seven years away.
So then, the question comes back to Tigard. What happens if after all the planning, analysis and alignments are drawn up, the plan is viable, everyone agrees, and then Tigard voters reject the plan? Ogden acknowledges it would greatly complicate things, but finds it hard to believe that it’s something that would happen. For all he or anyone else knows, one of the other participating cities could put a measure reminiscent of Tigard’s on a ballot. Eventually, cities might opt out of the planning process. Perhaps the funds won’t be available.
So many variables exist between now and the hypothetical groundbreaking that Ogden isn’t worked up about Tigard’s new voter-mandated, anti-high-capacity-transit stance.
The focus now is to put as many plans and alignments together as possible. If the project continues to move forward, the next step is to take it to a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, as required by the federal government. This means looking at all the options, ruling out the ones that aren’t viable, presenting the ones that are and demonstrating why certain options are superior to others.
“(It’s like) if you have a baby, and you named him George, you have to prove why you didn’t name him Larry or Steve,” Ogden said.
Like many people who will be affected if and when the Southwest Corridor Plan is implemented, Ogden wants to know as much as possible so that he can make an informed decision about whether or not it’s in the majority’s best interests.
“If the project doesn’t make sense to voters, it probably doesn’t make sense period,” he said. “I think the most logical decision is just to keep studying it until you get enough information that you can say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’”

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