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Opponents gather signatures to derail SW corridor proposals

Foes say bus, rail spending must be decided by voters


by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Tri-Mets light rail races past stop-and-go eastbound motorists along the Sunset Highway. Opponents in Tigard are gathering petition signatures to force a vote on transit proposals.Tigard residents may be asked to approve a ballot measure next March to require a public vote on the transit elements of the Southwest Corridor Plan.

The plan’s steering committee approved studying both a light rail and bus rapid-transit line from Portland to Tualatin last week. The new line would be in addition to improved pedestrian and bicycle connections called for in the plan between Portland and Sherwood.

But activists in Tigard already are going door to door gathering signatures for a potential ballot measure that could stop both light rail and bus rapid transit from coming to town without public approval.

If they can gather 4,122 valid signatures of Tigard voters by late September, the measure could appear on special election ballots in March.

Total costs for a light-rail line from Portland to Tualatin is estimated at $2.4 billion. Bus rapid transit — which includes dedicated lanes for buses for at least a portion of the line — would be 50 to 80 percent of that cost, depending on its route.

“I’ve got a lot of questions about the economics of the project,” said Art Crino, a retired Tigard engineer and co-chief petitioner. “I’ve lived in Tigard since 1966 and think people have a right to vote on something like this.”

Crino and the other activists are counting on the support of Tigard residents like Andy Bergman, who lives near Hall Boulevard.

“I am against any kind of high-capacity transit coming down Hall Boulevard into a community that is already well-established,” he said. “They don’t want it. They don’t need it.”

It’s the second try for proponents of the measure. A similar attempt in 2012 fell just 46 votes shy of making it onto the

ballot. That measure would have stopped any money being spent on light rail without voter approval.

In its place, the city put forth its own referendum, which passed overwhelmingly, saying it would not increase taxes and fees to pay for light rail without a vote of the people.

This time, activists are broadening their scope. If approved, the proposed ballot measure would require that voters see a total cost of building either light rail or bus rapid transit, the exact amount of road capacity taken away by the transit corridor within five miles of Tigard, and what increase in housing density is expected before they vote.

Proponents of the measure say they aren’t anti-transit, but want to make sure voters get to decide for themselves what taxpayer money is spent on.

Those behind the petition drive have the support of some of the activists who have been attempting to prevent TriMet’s Portland-to-Milwaukie light-rail line from being extended beyond Clackamas County’s boundary. They have not been able to stop the project so far. It reached the 50 percent completion mark last week.

The planning process is being overseen by Metro, the elected regional government. It is in charge of transportation planning in the urbanized portions of Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties.

Reporter Jim Redden contributed to this story.