US Senator Gordon Smith today met with Washington County officials announcing he has secured a commitment from US Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta to allow the Washington County Commuter Rail project to move forward. The event was held at TriMet’s Beaverton Transit Center, the first station along the 14.7-mile Washington County Commuter Rail project.
In February the project was recommended in the President’s budget, but has since been stalled due to an 11th hour rule change by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) adjusting their cost effectiveness calculation, bumping the project out of range to get a recommended rating and a Full Funding Grant Agreement.
Senator Smith led the Oregon Delegation in securing a legislative fix to the FTA’s new rules and allow the project to move into construction. He also worked with the delegation in getting language in the Transportation Reauthorization bill that just passed Congress that would also remove the FTA roadblock.
Additionally, Senator Smith has secured $15 million for the project in the Senate Appropriations bill, and will work with the rest of the delegation to ensure the $15 million remains in the final appropriations bill expected to pass Congress in October.
“Senator Smith’s leadership and commitment means that in this heavily-congested corridor we will soon have an alternative mode of transportation,” said TriMet General Manager Fred Hansen. “He led the Oregon delegation in making sure this project will serve the cities of Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin and Wilsonville.”
Washington County Chair Tom Brian said that local officials “have been advocating for this project for nearly a decade because it will improve mobility and will help strengthen the economic vitality of the cities along the alignment.”
Other local dignitaries attended today’s event to thank Senator Smith for his efforts, including Metro President David Bragdon, Washington County Commissioner Roy Rogers, Beaverton Mayor Rob Drake, Wilsonville Mayor Charlotte Lehan, Sherwood Mayor Keith Mays, Tigard City Councilor Sydney Sherwood and Tualatin City Councilor Jay Harris.
The project is now in final design, with 75 percent of the work complete. The design work will now begin again and should be completed by the end of year. The project is expected to sign a Full Funding Grant Agreement in mid-2006 and begin construction shortly thereafter. The commuter rail project could open in fall 2008.
The 14.7-mile commuter rail line would use existing freight tracks to add transit service in the heavily traveled I-5 and Hwy 217 corridor. The line would connect with MAX light rail in Beaverton, then travel to Tigard, Tualatin and Wilsonville. Travel time between the five stations would take 37 minutes, with service every 30 minutes during rush hour.