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Proposed 12-mile route intended connect city with Tigard and Tualatin, and encourage redevelopment along the route.

AMY FRAZIER/KOIN NEWS 6 - The Portland City Council during the Nov. 1 hearing on the SW Corridor MAX plan.In about 17 years, the proposed Southwest Corridor MAX line is projected to serve about 43,000 weekday commuters and carry 20 percent of the southbound nighttime rush hour commuters.

On Thursday, the Portland City Council put their unanimous stamp of approval on an amended plan supporting a 12-mile route for the MAX line that would run parallel to I-5 and along SW Barbur Boulevard. The project, estimated to cost between $2 billion and $3 billion, will connect downtown and Southwest Portland with Tigard and Tualatin.

Supporters hope to have the new MAX line up and running in 2027.

In a three-hour council session on Nov. 1 that included public comment, city officials listened to the plans, suggestions and adopted amendments before voting 5-0 to OK the overall plan.

In remarks immediately preceding their "aye" votes, each commissioner and Mayor Ted Wheeler spoke about the opportunity this provides, while noting there are still many challenges ahead before this Southwest Corridor MAX line becomes a reality.

Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, who will serve on the steering committee moving forward, said, "This is by no means the last public major transportation project in this area."

Commissioner Amanda Fritz noted this is a "huge opportunity" for the region, and Commissioner Nick Fish said the process in discussing these transportation issues is often "gnarly" but in the end "we get to the right outcome."

Wheeler declared this a "necessary vision, a bold vision" and that the city "needs to make big infrastructure investments like this." He also noted how proud he was the discussion included more than transportation, that housing and livability were also in the mix.

Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who is retiring from the council in January, also voted "aye" but noted there is a long way to go before this is a reality. One of the "big ifs," he said, is securing the money from the federal government. Light rail, he noted, is not always "manifest destiny" from the federal government.

Now that Portland has OK'd the plan, the Metro Council will vote on the final route for the Regional Transportation Plan on Nov. 15.

'Affordable housing should be top priority'

PBOT's Dylan Rivera told KOIN 6 News they feel strongly that "affordable housing should be a top priority early on in planning the Southwest Corridor."

The agreement the city reached with the other localities and agencies is innovative, he said. "It's a product of years of learning about light rail and how it works and how it's worked elsewhere in Portland."

He said they're not aware of another city in the United States that has an agreement like this "upfront, to plan ahead that when there's excess land from construciton of the light rail line, the first priority for that land will be for affordable housing."

Officials are aware affordable housing is a high priority in the Portland area. "We want to make sure that this light rail line serves the people who live in the southwest area today and people who will move here in the future," Rivera said.

They believe they can get at least 950 units of affordable housing as part of this agreement. "There's a lot more work to come in the coming years to provide the funding to build each building along the corridor."

Rivera also said there will be many opportunities for public input about all the issues connected with the Southwest Corridor line. Right now, they're only at about "5 percent design right now."

"Commissioner Chloe Eudaly will represent the City of Portland in those discussions about affordable housing, about the Crossroads (intersection), about the Ross Island Bridge head, about Marquam Hill," he said.

"There are many important project elements to be evaluated and refined in the weeks and months and probably years ahead, such as connections to Marquam Hill, the route through the Crossroads area," Eudaly said Thursday in the City Council session.

Previous concerns

Fritz originally opposed portions of the preferred alignment, which would cross west of the existing Barbur Transit Station. She identified three areas of concern, and the council delayed until Thursday a discussion about whether to sign off on the deal.

Her areas of concern include the connection to the Oregon Health & Science University campus on Marquam Hill through Terwilliger Parkway, the route through the existing Barbur Transit Center and complex "Crossroads" intersection of Barbur and Southwest Capitol Highway over I-5, and the connection to Portland Community College's Sylvania campus at Southwest 53rd Avenue, the Portland Tribune reported in October.

"Southwest 53rd is an ideal location for affordable housing. Using it for a park-and-ride used mostly by people living outside Portland would be a missed opportunity and put even more cars on Pacific Highway which is already congested," she previously told the Portland Tribune then.

In the ensuing weeks, the City of Portland "developed an agreement with Tigard, Washington County, Metro and TriMet to promote affordable housing along the route by making excess land available for housing construction," the Portland Bureau of Transportation said in a release Thursday.

KOIN News 6 is a news partner of the Portland Tribune.

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