I am in favor of Lane Transit District’s (LTD) West 11th via 6th and 7th Avenue EmX bus rapid transit (BRT) line addition. This leg of the BRT system will link the downtown Lane Transit District terminal via Oregon Highway 99 to a western terminal at Commercial Street on West 11th Avenue. West 11th Avenue is also Oregon Highway 126.
Serious concerns have arisen during the planning phase of the link and have been voiced by a broad coalition of members of the community. Most of the concerns are reasonable and valid and either have been or will be addressed. As with any undertaking of this magnitude is not likely that everybody involved will be satisfied with the outcome.
BRT, and public transit in general, is an integral component of Lane County’s transportation plan. As fuel prices increase it is ever more urgent and desirable for travelers, particularly in the metropolitan area, to access public transit. BRT offers the ever growing and densifying urban area a means of traveling for business, recreation and public purposes in a dependable and rapid manner.
Completion of a BRT system, including routes that will eventually cover the metropolitan area of Eugene/Springfield and beyond, is essential for assuring dependable and affordable access to facilities and amenities.
The decision more than two years ago by the Eugene City Council to pursue the West 11th option over the Highway 99/Bethel option was unfortunate at best. A route linking the large growing urban area of northwest Eugene to the downtown core and the University of Oregon/Springfield BRT routes (that are already in place) would have addressed imminent needs more directly and would have met with less opposition. The route to Bethel would have caused less business and thoroughfare interuption and could have built a greater general public confidence in the future buildout of the system.
In light of that unfortunate decision, along with the Eugene City Council and Mayor’s radical decision to kill the long-planned West Eugene Parkway, we find ourselves in a less than ideal position to clearly satisfy the concerns of the opponents of the EmX line. Nonetheless, the ultimate successful build-out of the system, including multi-governmental financial support, places us in the postion of needing to approve the project.
Concerns that a large amount of Federal tax dollars are being expended on the system have been articulately stated. That being noted, in the United States one of the main functions of federal government has been and will remain providing integrated transportation systems. The Interstate Highway system, airports and US Highways are examples.
Historically the US government has backed large transportation public works projects. This project will be one such example of the government’s role in providing roads and addressing transportation needs. The tax money that will be spent on the construction of the project in Lane County will be granted from a list of competing projects nation wide. The money spent in Lane County comes from a large pool that is funding nation-wide projects.
The jobs and infrastructure that Lane Transit District’s project will provide will not only put people to work but will also facilitate public transportation long into the future.
There will of course be business disruptions during the construction phase of the project. That is unavoidable, but can be minimized and ultimately improve access to existing businesses along the route and future businesses and residences that will be developed as we densify our urban area.
During the construction phase it will be important to make certain that minimal interruption of business occurs. Contruction will be staged such that small sections of the route will be affected at any one time. Concerns that road building will take place along the entire route throughout the duration of the construction have been registered and will be addressed.
In order to be responsive to individual business operators, driveways will be kept open and signage in place to direct traffic into the affected business. I will suggest that a contact person will be available at all times to respond to the changing nature of the project build-out, and that if any business operators have concerns that arise due to unpredicted changes in building they will have a direct means to report the concern via phone or electronic media.
A part of the ongoing EmX project will be a study of other subsequent components of the BRT system, including a McVay Highway link to Lane Community College and a link to Bethel.
Rapid public transit exists in a large number of cities and metropolitan areas in the United States. By moving forward at this time Lane County can have a model system that will address the needs of public transit and supplement individual vehicle travel long into the future.
Pat Farr is a Eugene City Councilor representing Ward 6 in Northwest Eugene and a Lane County Commissioner-elect (presumptive) from the North Eugene District.