EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) – While LTD’s proposed west Eugene EmX route has earned a second vote of approval from Eugene City Council, now the Lane County Board of Commissioners is looking into the possibility of a public vote for the project.
Commissioners raised the idea of a West EmX public “advisory vote” at a Wednesday, September 27th, 2012 board meeting. The board’s staff is now investigating the legality and feasibility of putting an advisory vote on the ballot to officially measure the amount of public support for the proposed EmX route.
LTD has proposed building its third leg of the EmX bus rapid transit system on West 6th, 7th and 11th Avenues. Along 6th and 7th, the route would run between Garfield and Charnelton Streets. On 11th Avenue, the route would run between Commerce Street by Target and Wal-mart to Garfield Street.
An advisory vote would not necessarily stop LTD from building the project. The project has a green light from local governing boards and is now in the hands of the Federal Transit Administration.
However, to get the majority of the money for the West EmX project from the Federal Government, LTD has to show that there is “public support” for the project.
Theoretically, Federal Transit Administration officials could change their mind on funding the project if a vote proves support isn't there. However, they could also ignore the results of vote.
LTD hasn’t ever supported a public vote for the project because its transit projects are already governed by publicly elected boards.
The West Eugene EmX project has already passed three local governing boards, including Eugene City Council, the LTD board, and the central Lane Metropolitan Planning Committee, which reviews all projects that have federal funding attached to them.
"Our position has always been that in the past, the MPC has handled those decisions and to be consistent with that, that's the way it should go in the future, because if you open that door, again, where do you close it, not only for our projects, but for any city project, or county project that comes along,” says Andy Vobora, an LTD spokesman.
Commissioners should know more about the possibility of an advisory vote in late October 2012.
LTD says it already has an idea of what it would cost to do a public advisory vote. It investigated the matter early on in the process when much of the “No Build” protesting began. According to LTD, the Lane County Board of Commissioners staff already estimated the price tag of a public vote to cost between 100 and 500 thousand dollars.
The proposed West EmX route would cost about 95 million dollars. Up to 70 million dollars of that would come from federal funding. If approved, LTD could begin final West EmX design by the year's end and possibly open the route in January 2017.