If the Southwest Corridor light rail gets built, make sure Tigard is on the route
A proposed light rail line between Portland and Bridgeport Village has to stop in Tigard — not just pass through Tigard.
We hope that message resonates with the people planning the Southwest Corridor light rail project, which would run between downtown Portland, along Interstate 5 or Barbur Boulevard, into Washington County, into the Tigard Triangle, and on to Bridgeport.
First caveat: The Southwest Corridor isn't a "done deal." The funding is still years away, and likely will be a combination of a bond measure, plus a likely blend of city, county, state and federal money. One estimate has put the project at somewhere just a little shy of $3 billion.
Second, the route isn't known yet and there's plenty of time to figure it out. The first train — if there is a first train — won't leave the station until the middle of the next decade.
So let's put aside the question of whether it will get built; we're willing to bet it will be, based on the success of the other MAX lines in the metro area.
Planners sometimes envision transportation projects as moving people from Point A to Point B. In this case, Portland and Bridgeport Village. But it would be more appropriate to think of it as moving people from Point A to Point Z, with destinations of greater or lesser importance in between.
We could imagine a configuration for the Southwest Corridor in which trains zoom along I-5, the very edges of the Tigard Triangle a blur in the window, en route to or from Bridgeport. That would be a serious mistake.
Washington County is set to grow considerably in the coming decades. One model suggests an influx of new residents over the next few decades with a combined population of present-day Hillsboro, Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood. That's some 300,000.
TriMet caught a significant amount of the growth in the 1990s and 2000s when it built the Blue Line, running through north Beaverton and Hillsboro.
But the growth in the coming decades will be in the central and southwest sectors of the county, with huge housing projects on the books in Tigard, Tualatin, Sherwood and King City, as well western Clackamas County and northern Marion County.
For TriMet, the key to capturing that growth is Tigard. Tigard will be the headwaters of the flow of mass transit commuters in and out of Portland.
This summer, TriMet and Metro planners are discussing likely routes through this area: Should the new light rail stick close to Interstate 5, or veer west, closer to Tigard? Should there be one light rail station or two in the Tigard Triangle (and remember: "zero" could still be the outcome)? Should there be one route through the area for all trains, or two routes, one terminating at Bridgeport, and one terminating on the eastern side of Tigard?
For the next couple of years, it will be critical for Washington County residents to make sure their voices are heard. That goes for business leaders as well. City and county leaders are involved, and have been from "go." But everyone needs to keep an eye on this project.
Fortunately, Metro does a pretty good job of getting residents involved in projects. In recent months, staff have done breakfast meetings in Tigard, have distributed fliers on the project, and staffed tables with handouts at the Tigard Festival Balloons, the Muslim International Cultural Festival and at St. Anthony's Catholic Church — an important hub for both the Latino and Vietnamese communities in our region.
We were encouraged last week to see several people who own buildings or businesses in the Tigard Triangle attend an informational hearing in Portland to discuss the options. That's great. When it comes to urban planning, the game is played by the people who show up.
If the only goal of the Southwest Corridor is to get people to and from Bridgeport Village, the entire proposal is a bust. If the goal is to boost mass transit for the fast-growing central and southwestern sectors of Washington County, we're enthusiastic supporters. But the road to that plan has to run through Tigard.