The Federal Transit Administration announced this week the funding of 25 projects in 17 states through the Helping Obtain Prosperity for Everyone (HOPE) program. The largest grant, in the amount of $850,000 was awarded to Metro. According to the FTA, the HOPE program supports “projects that use transit systems as a springboard to create better lives for people in rural communities and areas experiencing long-term economic distress.”
The funding will allow Metro and its partners in the Tualatin Valley Highway project, TriMet and Washington County, to do meaningful engagement with the communities along that corridor.
“This corridor, in comparison to both the Portland Metropolitan region and the county as a whole, has above average concentrations of low-income populations, people of color, limited English language proficiency residents, and youth populations,” explained Elissa Gertler, Metro’s Planning and Development Director.
The Tualatin Valley corridor connects several communities, including Forest Grove, Cornelius, Hillsboro, Aloha, Beaverton, and Portland. It has been identified by TriMet as a key corridor to increase transit ridership, and it serves one of the most-used bus lines in Washington County.
“This will allow Metro and our partners to begin work on the Tualatin Valley Highway Investment Area, aligning transit improvements with community development activities and leveraging private investment within a 16 mile corridor,” added Gertler.
Metro will convene a project steering committee bringing together elected officials and community members. The grant will also allow Metro to conduct analyses to inform the design of the transit projects along the corridor — studying, for example, the feasibility of larger and more environmentally friendly articulated electric buses.
The community engagement work that this grant will help facilitate is in keeping with Metro’s commitment to lead with equity. Development of the Tualatin Valley corridor can bring much needed economic benefits for the region, but it also has the potential of displacing the low-income populations and communities of color that call it home.
In the past, displacement — caused by increased housing costs — has been one of the unintended consequences of major development projects. By working with the community and integrating their needs and concerns into the early stages of the planning process, Metro and its partners will be able to mitigate this and other negative side effects of development.