Editor's Note: Transit and infrastructure in the spotlight

Election tilts scale in favor of transit and infrastructure projects.

Never say never.

Time and again Tigard voters have rejected efforts to bring the city into the light rail era. But as of late Thursday south metro residents are — by the narrowest of margins — passing a ballot measure that would free up their city government to support plans for a new MAX line.

Measure 34-255 allows the city of Tigard to press ahead with the MAX route proposed in the Southwest Corridor Plan. Plans call for that line to connect Southwest Portland to the Bridgeport Village shopping center, serving downtown Tigard either along that route or as a branch service.

The vote puts Tigard in sync with the national electorate. On Tuesday 33 transit-funding measures passed in cities and states around the country. The raft of new projects include an extraordinary, $54 billion expansion in Seattle featuring 62 miles of light rail/subway and additional rapid bus service and Sounder trains.

It’s worth noting many Seattle-area voters opposed the expansion until last March, when Sound Transit opened the latest Link extension, a speedy, state-of-the art subway the likes of which Oregonians can only dream about.

Within weeks, Seattle suburbs were clamoring for a Link of their own. They’re getting it. The new funding package will bring light rail service to West Seattle and Tacoma in 2030, Ballard in 2035, Everett in 2036, Issaquah and Kirkland in 2041.

Although one hesitates to predict, much less normalize, any actions the President-elect might take, Trump may also give a boost to transit projects. A New York City denizen, Trump is an urbanist — in the narrow, real estate developer definition of the word — who made infrastructure investment a centerpiece of his campaign.

That stance puts him at odds with the conventional economic conservatives who craft the Republican party platform. (Then again, Trump's new transportation transition czar is a gift to the car lobby; Martin Whitmer is chairman of the lobbying firm Whitmer and Worrall, which represents the National Asphalt Paving Association.)

Perhaps our new president will use as a model The West Coast Infrastructure Exchange, a public-private partnership jump started by Tobias Read, Oregon’s new Treasurer-elect.  (A 2008 study commissioned by Metro showed that the Portland area alone faces a $20 billion gap in needed infrastructure by 2035.)

As Salem watchers know, Oregon legislators have failed, spectacularly, to come up with a transportation plan. Getting Republicans and Democrats on board with a infrastructure package is one of the central tasks of Kate Brown's new administration. 

In the meantime, there are other signs local projects may finally get the respect they deserve. This week John Ludlow, Clackamas County Board chair, lost his seat to challenger and fellow commissioner Jim Bernard. Ludlow was elected to the board in 2012 on a "Stop Portland Creep" platform aimed at defeating TriMet's Orange Line.

Bernard is an ardent light rail supporter.

Never say never.  It was that kind of election. 

Linda Baker

Linda Baker is the editor of Oregon Business

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