TriMet seeks comment on unfunded SW MAX project

Civic Affairs

Agency completing environmental assessment despite delay in funding

A TriMet MAX train in Portland, March 4, 2020. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — TriMet is finalizing the federally-required environmental assessment of the proposed Southwest Corridor MAX line, even though Metro President Lynn Peterson has said regional funding for the project will not be sought until 2022, at the earliest.

TriMet had been planning a new light rail line between Portland and Bridgeport Village to be partly funded by Metro’s $5.2 billion regional transportation funding measure on the November general election ballot. But voters in all three counties in Metro’s jurisdiction defeated the measure, prompting the regional transit agency to stop working on the project.

But TriMet has announced it will complete the Final Environmental Impact Statement required to be eligible for federal funding in the next few months. As part of that process, the agency is seeking public comment on the project’s potential impacts to historic properties and parks resources within the Southwest Corridor. Some of these resources are protected under the National Historic Preservation Act and the Department of Transportation Act, and require mitigations.

Despite the defeat of the measure, TriMet General Manager Doug Kelsey has said it could qualify for federal funding if Congress approved an emergency stimulus infrastructure funding package next year. Kelsey is scheduled to retire on March 5, 2021.

In the meantime, Metro President Lynn Peterson said the elected regional government will not submit another regional transportation measure for voter approval until 2022, at the earliest. As first reported by The Oregonian, Peterson made the comment during a Thursday, Dec. 16, Metro Council meeting with senior staff. They were her first public comments about the timing of another measure since the November election.

During the briefing, Peterson said the transportation package faced “not just a debrief” on its vision and priorities but “a reboot,” The Oregonian reported.

In addition to the MAX project, the measure was intended to fund safety and alternative transportation projects in more than a dozen major transportation corridors. It would have been funded by a payroll tax of up to 0.75% on employers with more than 25 workers. It was opposed by business organizations and large employers in the region, who outspent supporters by a 3-to-1 margin to defeat it.

TriMet will host an online public meeting on historic properties and parks resources that could be impacted if the project moves forward from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Jan. 7. Public comments will be accepted through Jan. 19. More information about it and the project is available at trimet.org/swcorridor.

The Portland Tribune and Pamplin Media Group’s papers are a KOIN 6 News media partner

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