Lake Oswego is ripe with the opportunity to become a regional leader on how we envision and provide for our future transportation. As Mayor, I will lead us to transportation alternatives for all who live, work and visit Lake Oswego.
I want to share just a few examples of the opportunities that are currently at play here, and how they can be implemented.
Currently, Lake Oswego suffers from a lack of trails and connectivity for walking and bicycling. Sidewalks, where they are present, are not necessarily in good condition: Lake Oswego’s overall walk score is 51 out of 100. Bus service via TriMet is limited by both frequency and stops, making it unreasonable for commuting to and from work.
Where should we start in addressing Lake Oswego’s transportation needs?
Highway 43 and the Willamette Shoreline Trolley
Hugging the Willamette River, this scenic corridor is highly congested with vehicle travel and is downright dangerous for bicyclists and pedestrians. Reimagining Highway 43 as a safe thoroughfare for cars and people needs to be accomplished through regional partnerships, with Lake Oswego both leading and cooperating. Bus Rapid Transit might still be a good short term solution but it has been further sidelined by COVID 19.
However long term, the Willamette Shoreline Trolley although the most expensive and politically fraught solution to Highway 43 congestion, to my mind, is the best transit option for the east side of the city. Lake Oswego is in a consortium that purchased the rail line to preserve right of way for potential future bus rapid transit, streetcar, light rail, or other high capacity transit. The use of the trolley on the line is now recreational to preserve the line for this future corridor. An ill-conceived plan to convert the rail to a regional multi-use trail ran up against the legal opinion that this use would almost assuredly cause the loss of the right of way. There was always a suspicion that the plan was indeed intended to cause just such a loss.
There is no doubt that the best use for this line is regional high capacity transit. In 2012 Lake Oswego was teed-up for a streetcar that would have led to a transit-oriented development at Foothills, but it was whipped away by the tea party take over of local government which also correlated with a sentiment that Lake Oswego was best preserved and kept safe as an affluent enclave.
The fact still remains that Lake Oswego needs transit in and to Portland, the line is there, and the costs to prioritize our needs are not as great as those of climate chaos. Foothills is now ripe for redevelopment, with built-in designs for affordable housing, and mixed-use. It is more than time for Lake Oswego to come back to the table with Portland, Metro, TriMet, Multnomah, and Clackamas Counties to make this happen.
Southwest Corridor Light Rail
Expanding the MAX system to Southwest Portland, Tigard, and Tualatin is an exciting opportunity to address Lake Oswego’s transit and housing needs on the west side of the city. The proposed line has its terminus station at Bridgeport Village, just a short ways away from city-owned property on Boones Ferry. I have proposed that we preserve this land to initiate an affordable housing project (possibly with help from the Metro housing bond revenue). Land for housing so near the light rail route is always an asset if purchased, as this was, before the cost of the land becomes inflated by the market desiring the benefits of a transit-oriented development as this will become.
Prior to 1997, Lake Oswego had been considered as a possible stop on a high capacity south-north river transit passenger system. This option should now be re-evaluated given our climate crisis. It is especially important in that in an emergency, evacuation or assistance to Lake Oswego will be by the Willamette River as opposed to roads that will undoubtedly be destroyed or unusable.
Revenue for Transportation
Progressing at all on these multi-jurisdictional projects will take city cooperation with the other governmental entities and personal relationships with their staff and electeds. I am, at present, the only councilor who is a member of or alternate to the state, county, and regional leadership committees on land use and transportation.
I am the face of regional leadership from the city of Lake Oswego. I show up for the hard work. I have vision and most importantly I listen far more than I talk.
On the city level, the primary sources of transportation revenue include the State Highway Fund, street maintenance fees, franchise fees, and transportation system development charges. At one point, only 1% of the funds came from the general fund, but over time, a significant amount of money navigated out from the general fund to road pavement.
This is not necessarily wrong as eventually if the pavement is not brought up to and kept at a certain level of maintenance, prior dollars are simply wasted. However, the amount that has gone into our roads has meant that it has not gone into pathways or other projects, despite the fact that the city has a sizable older demography whose major form of exercise is walking!
However, we have been foolish in dealing with transportation impacts. The extra transportation infrastructure caused by development is supposed to be, by law, paid for by the developer causing the new impacts. Recently the majority of the council, including my opponent, voted to reduce the proper charges by 70%.
You will hear many people, including my opponent, preach about pathways/safe routes to schools but they and he gave away the funding. You will hear many people, including my opponent, preach about economic development and fiscal responsibility, but this vote lost the city nearly $80,000 from a large development on Kruse Way and Boones Ferry.
Why should the cost of future development (but not the profit) be placed on the backs of residents who have already paid through taxes, rates, and fees for the existing infrastructure that the developer just waltzes in and gets for free?
This is an unfair tax burden on the citizens. As Mayor, I will act to put a stop to it.
In preparing for the proposed 2020 transportation bond, Metro suggested using the following impacts as metrics: travel time; greenhouse gas emissions, corridors in equity focus areas, and safety for drivers and pedestrians. In fairness, these are thoughtful and important metrics and although I adopt them as well, I think the paramount issue is the global imperative to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.
The Lake Oswego Transportation Plan does look at sustainability and includes considerations of stormwater management but then links it with parking supporting economic activity. Later it links the “environment” with the economy.
Setting up the balancing this way will always put the heavy thumb on the scales for benefits to the economy. However, ultimately there cannot be an economy encompassing the whole community unless climate change is addressed as an A+.
More properly there will be enough for the very few who can always buy whatever they want or need, but there will definitely not be the fundamentals let alone enough for all.
This is why although I truly understand how complex funding for serious transportation is, I do not think we have the luxury to delay or toy with it on the margins. The climate emergency demands direct, immediate and extended prioritization. As Mayor, I will treat it as a hair on fire matter.