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Cities on Different Roads in Seeking Port's Help

by Catherine Trevison
The Oregonian, February 16, 2005

Fairview and Troutdale ask the Port of Portland to push for road projects,
but Wood Village's mayor is wary

Port of Portland officials hope to throw their weight behind six east Multnomah County road projects designed to improve commerce and tourism and other development near the Columbia River.

But city leaders argued last week about whether to welcome help from the Port, which has raised the possibility of building an intermodal rail yard in the area that is opposed by Fairview, Troutdale and Wood Village.

At a tense meeting last week, Wood Village Mayor Dave Fuller refused to join Fairview Mayor Mike Weatherby and Troutdale Mayor Paul Thalhofer in a letter encouraging the Port to seek money for local roads.

"The way these guys see it, they're going to use the Port to get what they want" in lobbying for road money, Fuller said later. "From my point of view, they should be careful about who is getting used."

Weatherby said that the Columbia Cascade River District Steering Committee spent many meetings working on road projects that would help the area develop, including widening part of 223rd Avenue.

"If the Port's saying, 'We can give our leverage to this,' then why not?" Weatherby said. "I don't care if aliens from another dimension want to use it (223rd Avenue) as a landing strip. We need it."

Thalhofer said Troutdale has been waiting for a better interchange at Interstate 84 and 257th Avenue for more than a decade.

"Mike and I see it differently than Dave," Thalhofer said. Fuller "is just opposing the Port of Portland, period, and I don't think that's wise. I think there are instances where they can help us."

Port cites job creation

Port officials say they want better roads for a 100-acre industrial park they hope to build after buying 700 acres around the former Reynolds Metals aluminum smelter in 2006. The Port will not know for several more years whether it also will build an intermodal rail yard on the site, said Carl Warren, the Port's director for business development.

"If you want to make the first 100 acres perform for jobs, you've got to have good infrastructure to make that work," Warren said. "If the Port has a scheme, it's plugging this land in (to the road system) so we can create jobs."

Port officials maintain that a modern freight yard where trucks and trains exchange containers would improve the region's economy.

But others say it would obliterate another vision for the Columbia Cascade River District, which stretches north of Interstate 84 from 174th Avenue to the Sandy River, to promote tourism and recreation on the waterfront.

The City Councils of Troutdale, Fairview and Wood Village all passed resolutions opposing an intermodal rail yard at the site.

About a year ago, local political and economic leaders formed the steering committee to flesh out a master plan for the district, said John Andersen, Fairview's community development director, who coordinates the group. The committee includes the mayors and Port representatives. They've been discussing road priorities for a couple of months, Andersen said.

Their top road projects included: $10 million to study reconstructing the confusing, crowded Interstate 84 interchange at 257th Avenue in Troutdale. $6.2 million to improve and widen 223rd Avenue between Halsey and Marine Drive, which has become a bottleneck for nearby industrial land, Weatherby said. $12 million to study an extension of 238th Avenue to the north. It would go through industrial property and connect with the Reynolds site. The study "doesn't mean it would be built," Lahsene said. $7.9 million to widen Sandy Boulevard from two to three lanes between 207th Avenue and 238th Avenue. A wider road would provide better access to industrial areas, Andersen said. $3.9 million to widen Sandy Boulevard between 167th Avenue and 203rd Avenue. $4.5 million to extend Riverside Drive, opening more industrial property for development, Lahsene said.

The Port commission will vote next month on whether to add these projects to its 2005 transportation plan. Money could come from various federal, state and regional sources, Lahsene said.

Mayor won't give up Fuller agrees that 257th and 223rd Avenues need work; 257th is one of the worst traffic routes in the area, he said.

The other mayors are "anxious to get the Port to help in getting money," he said. "But I'm not going to give up and let the Port use 238th as a primary route to run trucks back and forth, if I or the city can prevent it. It would tear up the roads, interfere with commercial business that goes on in the area, and dirty the area with diesel fumes."

It also would remove a hotel from the city's tax base, he said.

Fuller would not sign the letter to the Port. Weatherby and Thalhofer did sign, but made it clear that they did not support other projects that would set the stage for an intermodal yard, Thalhofer said.

They also did not ask for money for the 238th Avenue study, but the Port probably will pursue it anyway, said Warren, the Port's director for business development.

"If we don't include it, I think we handicap the potential of that land to be developed," he said. "I look at 238th as being a driveway for the 100 acres (industrial park)."

But Warren also acknowledged that Wood Village ultimately controls any changes to 238th.

"Without Wood Village approving," he said, "it won't get built."

Catherine Trevison
Cities on Different Roads in Seeking Port's Help
The Oregonian, February 16, 2005

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