Clackamas County Seeks New Transit Links with Tualatin

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Getting between towns in Washington and Clackamas counties can be a big challenge if you don’t own a vehicle. 

That’s why Clackamas County is currently looking into the possibility of creating a new public shuttle service that would link Tualatin with West Linn and Oregon City via a new shuttle service that uses Borland Road. The shuttle plan is part of a larger Clackamas County Transit Development Plan, which is currently in the works to help prioritize and fund major transit improvements. These would target areas of the county that are not currently served by TriMet and other public transit agencies. Funding for the project would come from Oregon’s massive $5.3 billion House Bill 2017, dubbed the Keep Oregon Moving Bill, which was approved by the state legislature three years ago. 

Right now, County officials are asking the public what they want to see in those gap areas between current service districts. In Tualatin, at least, the results have provided at least one path to follow. 

“In our initial survey findings, about 43 percent of the people wanted that commuter route, but 39 percent wanted a route on Borland Road,” Christina Babcock, Transit Coordinator for Clackamas County, told the Tualatin City Council at a Sept. 14 meeting. “If we don’t address this we aren’t serving the needs of Tualatin. It’s definitely a mad scramble at this point to get that application in for discretionary funds. It would be in place for a couple of years and then permanent funding would be needed.”  

County planning officials have been studying transit options across the county since last spring. They hope to bring a Transit Development Plan draft to county commissioners this fall for possible adoption later this winter. 

In Tualatin, the main priority is the establishment of transit connections with major employment areas in the tri-county metro area.

“There are few direct connections from major employment areas in Gresham, Washington County and Wilsonville, and the Clackamas County Industrial area is another area that really needs to be served,” Karen Buehrig, Long Range Planning Manager for Clackamas County, said at the Sept. 14 council meeting.  

The Tualatin-West Linn-Oregon City shuttle is one of four similar routes being considered across the county, and it’s one that City of Tualatin leaders strongly favor. 

“This is a long-needed connection,” said Councilor Valerie Pratt. “It really seems like you put a lot of thought into the needs of the riders and the connections that are necessary to make this successful.” 

“I think the dearth of public transportation in Tualatin has been well documented,” added Councilor Nancy Grimes. “I would reiterate the need for the Borland Loop.” 

Some $3 million in House Bill 2017 funding is set to initially fund shuttle services, but once that money dries up, new funding would be needed. The proposed route from Tualatin would use the city’s existing Ride Connection service to connect with Wilsonville’s South Metro Area Regional Transport line at Stafford Road. From there, the SMART shuttle would head to West Linn, Oregon City and end at Clackamas Town Center. 

The new service would connect Ride Connection’s Red Loop with Meridian Park Hospital before heading east on Borland Road to meet SMART at Stafford Road. 

“We would need to rework routing the Red Loop and provide access to Bridgeport,” Babcock said. 

In the near future, the County plans to hire a consultant to lead an evaluation of possible routes between Tualatin and Oregon City. The study is intended to identify specific costs, and a formal process to establish the proposed shuttle. But first, the need for the service must be established. 

“The more support we can get the better off we are,” Babcock said. “The application is due in November, and funds are awarded in June of 2021. If we were successful in our application, June of ‘21 is when work would really start. But don’t hold me to that date, please, it will take a while.”