Fate of SW Corridor MAX line in hands of Tigard voters

Measure 34-255 would connect downtown Portland to Bridgeport Village by light rail

A TriMet MAX Green line (KOIN, file)
A TriMet MAX Green line (KOIN, file)

TIGARD, Ore. (KOIN) — Tigard residents will soon vote to decide whether a new light rail line will appear along the Southwest Corridor.

If approved, Measure 34-255 would connect downtown Portland to Bridgeport Village by light rail, with several stops in Tigard.

But if the measure doesn’t garner enough support, it could ruin plans for the city to receive billions of dollars from the federal government.

Tigard Mayor John Cook is the head of the Yes for Tigard campaign, which touts Measure 34-255 as a way to ease traffic congestion and improve livability.

“Connecting Tigard to the larger metro region is good for local businesses and creates opportunities for tourism,” the Yes for Tigard website states. “Tigard is a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family. Let’s keep it that way!”

This anti-light rail billboard is up in Tigard in advance of the November vote on the issue, October 21, 2016 (KOIN)
This anti-light rail billboard is up in Tigard in advance of the November vote on the issue, October 21, 2016 (KOIN)

But some worry the light rail line could lead to an increase in crime. Mayor Cook showed KOIN 6 News a letter from Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba that claims crime didn’t increase during the first year the Orange Line was running.

“I think it’s a very negative scare tactic,” said Tigard Mayor John Cook.

Opponent John Charles, who lives in Tigard and is the head of the Cascade Policy Institute, said Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis was “so frustrated with crime related to light rail in Gresham that he threatened to put his own police force on the trains.”

Mayor Cook admits light rail will not solve congestion. “But what I say is it will slow the increase of congestion. So if we don’t do something for the future it’s just going to get worse and worse and worse.”

Beyond crime, Charles opposes the project because it’s a waste of money. Anything light rail can do, buses can do better, cheaper and faster. So what’s the point?”

The Tigard light rail plan does not have a tax or fee tied to it. If the project moves forward there would be a metro-wide bond measure, but not for a few years.

And the line would take nearly a decade to build.