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Anti-transit measure heads to March ballot

Measure would force a vote if MAX or bus rapid transit ever comes to Tigard.


by: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tim Esau spent the summer going door-to-door collecting signatures to stop a proposed high capacity transit line from coming to Tigard. The group collected the necessary signatures to qualify for the March 2014 special election.It’s official; Tigard residents will decide whether or not to allow a possible MAX line from coming to town.

After months of going door to door , a group hoping to stop a high capacity transit line from coming through Tigard have earned the necessary signatures to send their ballot to voters.

That measure should go before voters in the March 11, 2014 special election.

The measure asks voters whether or not they want to weigh in on a proposed high capacity transit line expected to be built over the next several years.

It’s similar to the ballot measure the group tried to get to voters last year. That measure ultimately failed to gather enough signatures.

If passed, this measure would amend the Tigard Charter, forcing a vote of the people before any new high-capacity transit corridor is built within the city and effectively prohibit the city from even planning for a high capacity transit line without telling voters exactly how much of the roadway would be taken up by the line, expected changes in housing density or land-use regulations and a projected cost of the project.

For years, Metro, TriMet and area cities have been working on the Southwest Corridor Plan, which would bring some form of transit line from Portland to Tualatin, either a MAX light rail or bus rapid transit, similar to the program used in and around Eugene.

Esau said he isn't anti-lightrail or anti-bus, he just wants residents to have a say what happens in their town.

“Everyone that I have talked to would be thrilled if TriMet could think of adding bus rapid transit to downtown (Portland) without a dedicated lane,” Esau said. “But if it takes up existing right-of-way, that’s an unconscionable thing to do on our already congested pathways. There’s just no space for it.”

City officials are still crafting packet materials and will be posted to the city’s website when completed.

The Tigard City Council is expected to forward the ballot measure to the Washington County Elections Division on Tuesday.

'Very comfortable we’ll have the numbers'

The group had to collect 4,122 signatures in order to quality for the March election. According to Esau they collected about 5,000.

“We still have 500 or so that we didn’t turn over to them, just in case” he said.

Esau and the other petitioners were notified on Monday that the measure would be appearing on March’s ballot.

Esau said they knew they had secured enough signatures last week, but had to wait for official confirmation Monday before they could start celebrating.

“It was a bit of a nail biter,” Esau said. “We had 16 people working this weekend collecting signatures, and by all our estimations we were there.”

But getting the measure onto the ballot was the easy part. Now the petitioners must convince voters to approve the measure.

“I honestly don’t know where we go from here in terms of getting the message out further,” Esay said. “At least now we will get to put it before voters.”

Esau said he isn’t worried whether or not the measure will pass.

“We had a lot of interest even in the end (of the signature gathering phase) where people would ask if they could get a petition to help spread it around,” Esau said. “Just based on the number of responses we got, I know it will (pass). The trickiest part was catching people at home. If they answered the door it was comfortably two-thirds supporting us to one-third supporting rail. I am very comfortable that we’ll have the numbers.”

Voters approved toned down measure last year

One snag the group might run into is that voters already passed a referendum dealing with high capacity transit only a year ago. After last year’s initiative nearly made it to the ballot, the city put its own referendum to voters, which called for a vote before the city can raise taxes or fees in order to build a light-rail line through town.

Esau said that referendum didn’t go far enough to ensure voters decide whether or not to allow MAX or bus rapid transit line to come to Tigard.

“For one thing, our measure actually requires the city to take an opposing stance on further rail activity,” he said, “It also puts the city in a place where they are required to tell us what impacts are going to be faced by putting down this path and gives us a chance to say yes or no on this specific plan instead of just going along with the plans.”

For more information on the measure, visit www.swrailvote.org



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