TriMet bids on PSU land for light rail

    Portland public transportation provider TriMet has put a $590,000 bid on a 16-space Portland State parking lot with the intent to develop the area into a turnabout for the end of the new MAX Green Line light rail.

    The newest MAX train light rail, which will run from Clackamas County to the current downtown Portland bus mall and PSU, will end at Southwest Jackson Street between Southwest Fifth and Sixth avenues. The new turnabout will take up the entire block, and construction on the block is expected to begin at the beginning of spring 2007 after TriMet owns all the property.

    The PSU-owned parking lot, on the corner of Southwest Sixth Avenue and Jackson, provided parking spaces for employees of businesses located on the first floor of the Broadway Housing Building, and will be sold to TriMet pending approval from the State Board of Higher Education at today’s board meeting at PSU.

    TriMet has also secured the three duplexes directly next to the PSU parking lot, which previously were used as rental housing. The third part of the block that includes the PSU parking lot is a pay-to-park parking lot, the cheapest lot near PSU at $4.50 per day, which closed within this past week. TriMet Communications Director Mary Fetsch said TriMet is working to secure the entire block, including the pay-to-park lot.

    The turnabout on the block south of Southwest Jackson will consist of three light rail tracks – two tracks for extra MAX trains to rest while not in service, and a third for the train route.

    Dan Zalkow, manager of PSU transportation and parking services, said that selling the lot was reasonable because PSU was able to sell it at a fair market value, $590,000 for 4,000 square feet. He said that because TriMet needed the area for the light rail turnabout, PSU could either sell the parking lot at fair market value or let the city condemn the property and seize it anyway.

    ”Essentially they were allowed to acquire it,” Zalkow said.

He said that the university and other tenants of the block have known about the plan for two to three years, beginning when TriMet originally unveiled the plans to create the MAX Green Line light rail. After construction is finished on the light rail, the turnabout block will also have a small traffic-control booth to direct the MAX trains.

    PSU put the 4,000 square-foot parking lot up for bid on Oct. 24 to the Oregon Department of Administrative Services, a clearinghouse for dealing with the sale of public property. Because the property is publicly owned, Oregon Revised Statutes require that all public bids be taken before any private bids. With the TriMet bid for the property closing on Nov. 14, and no other public entities bidding for the land, it is likely that TriMet will secure the land.

    Both Vice President for Finance and Administration Lindsey Desrochers and Associate Vice President for Finance and Controller Denise Wendler were unavailable for comment on how the $590,000 would be used.

    Zalkow said he thinks the loss of the parking lot will have little impact on the university. He said that people who parked in the lot have already been given spaces in either the University Place parking lot or at the University Center Building.

    Fetsch said that work on the Portland Mall Light Rail Project will take place at three different times in three zones: the south mall, the central mall and the north mall. She said that crews would work on the 57 blocks of the mall in a space of three to four blocks at a time, for a period of about eight weeks each.

    ”This is a way for workers to get in, get out and move on,” Fetsch said.

    After the entire mall light rail is finished and the Green Line is running, Southwest Fifth and Sixth avenues will have three lanes each – two lanes for the MAX line and buses, and a separate lane for cars. Currently, automobiles cannot drive on six of the 57 blocks of the Portland bus mall, but after construction is finished, automobiles will be allowed access to all 57 blocks.

    Buses currently running on Southwest Fifth and Sixth avenues will be relocated to Southwest Third and Fourth avenues for the construction beginning Jan. 14. The buses will move back to the Portland Mall in spring 2009.

    An open house discussing the impact and design of the Portland Mall Light Rail Project will be held at PSU on Wednesday, Nov. 8 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Cascade Room of Smith Memorial Student Union.

    The new Green Line will run approximately 8.3 miles and is expected to cost close to $550 million. Fetsch said additional tracks might be added to the end of the Green Line in the future, which would extend to Southeast Portland and Milwaukie.

    The extension would require the city to build a new bridge, and Fetsch said plans for construction are far off – 2015 at the earliest.