Tuesday, February 12, 2013

TriMet, Clackamas County spar over LRT plan

Written by  Mischa Wanek-Libman, engineering editor
TriMet, Clackamas County spar over LRT plan TriMet
Portland's TriMet Board of Directors and Clackamas County commissioners are in disagreement over the progression of the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project.

Last week, Clackamas County commissioners sent a letter to TriMet asking the agency to reconsider the southernmost terminus citing the unknown outcome of an upcoming vote that would authorize use of county resources for public rail transit.

"As you are aware, last September the voters in Clackamas County overwhelmingly approved Measure 3-401, which now requires voter approval to authorize the use of county resources for public rail transit, including light rail. To comply with this voter approval process, we intend to seek voter authorization at the upcoming May election for items related to the use of resources of Clackamas County and the North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District on the section of the Portland Milwaukie Light Rail line under construction within Clackamas County.

"Though we are not certain what the outcome of the vote will be, there is a potential that our voters may not support elements of the project necessary to advance the project all the way to Park Ave. Therefore we ask that you carefully consider any and all alternatives that terminate the project north of Park Ave., either in Milwaukie or at Tacoma Street. We respectfully recognize the aspirations of the City of Milwaukie and its contractual obligations. Additionally we believe it would be prudent to suspend construction operations in the southernmost segment, Clackamas County specifically, until the suggested assessment is completed," said the letter, written by John Ludlow, chair of the board of commissioners.

TriMet's board responded with its own letter saying it is too late to modify the scope of the project and reminded the commissioners the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project "is the product of the cooperative efforts of partners from all levels of government - federal, state, and local – and reflects over a decade of collaboration for the benefit of the entire region," including Clackamas County.

"TriMet committed to build and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) committed to fund the Project that is underway now and ends at Park A venue in Clackamas County. Those commitments are reflected in the Full Funding Grant Agreement, which was secured from the FT A after the assurances and commitments of Clackamas County and the other regional partners.

"At this point, no modifications as to scope are possible and there is no 'funding uncertainty' that would change the Project's 'key elements.' The whole Project will be built as agreed to by all the regional partners, including the County.

"We are disappointed that you are considering submitting a matter to a vote that will have no practical effect on the County's duty to fulfill its contractual obligations for the Project. We believe that the County Counsel accurately assessed measure 3-401 as prospective in its application only and that no aspect of the Project requires a vote, nor would a vote relieve the county of its obligations. Those obligations include the duty to fully cooperate with TriMet and other regional partners to ensure that the Project proceeds on time, as designed, and in accordance with the agreements of the parties," said TriMet's response letter, signed by Bruce Warner, president of the TriMet Board of Directors.

TriMet's letter also outlined consequences to suspending the project while Clackamas County sought the authorizing vote including expense related to delayed construction of $65,000 per day.

TriMet suggested involving a neutral third party to moderate and evaluate the circumstances in order to clarify Clackamas County's obligations to the project.