By Shelby Sebens | Northwest Watchdog
PORTLAND — Residents who oppose Clackamas County’s plan to spend millions of dollars to extend a light rail into their community will continue their fight with a petition drive.
James Knapp, chief petitioner for the referendum that challenges the county’s financing of the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Obligation, has until Nov. 21 to collect 6,252 signatures.
If he is successful, the measure would appear on the ballot for the March 12 special election, according to a letter sent from Clackamas County Clerk Sherry Hall to Knapp on Aug. 29.
The county commissioners voted Aug. 22 to sell bonds for $19.9 million to pay for the county’s portion of the project, which consists of a 7.3-mile line from Portland State University to Oak Grove.
For this project, the county, in 2010, joined the federal government, Milwaukie, Portland, Multnomah County, Metro and the Oregon Department of Transportation in partnering with Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon, or TriMet, the public agency operating mass transit in the Portland area.
The county also will pay TriMet nearly $2.7 million worth of in-kind contributions for the project through a land donation, waiving of engineering fees and road improvements, according to a memorandum of understanding between the county and TriMet.
The $1.4 billion extension is expected to open in 2015, according to TriMet.org.
Clackamas voters also will decide Sept. 18 during a special election, if voter approval should be required when county resources are used to finance, design, build or operate any public rail transit system.
It’s unclear how that vote might affect the funds committed to TriMet by the county.