Making way for MAX has big price tag

Making way for MAX has big price tag »Play Video
Railroad tracks run next to Beaver Heat Treating, a business that strengthens steel products for clients like the U.S. military and Ford Motors.

PORTLAND, Ore. - Plans to extend MAX from Portland to Milwaukie has a possible wrinkle: On the east side of the Willamette River, the line will run smack through the center of a company and moving that company may cost millions in public money.

Beaver Heat Treating, a second generation company that’s been in business for more than 50 years, uses 26 furnaces to heat metal products for clients like the U.S. military and Ford Motors. Vice President Tony Moran says the furnaces have to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He says moving them or even cooling them down would cause irreparable damage to their delicate internal structure.

Moran estimates the cost of relocating and setting up shop somewhere else could cost between $15 million and $23 million, a cost that TriMet must pay the company by law.

“We’re not looking to be improved or have any more than what we have at this moment, but we don’t want to take any less than what we already have,” Moran says.

TriMet will compensate the company mostly through a federal grant, according to TriMet General Manager Fred Hansen.

While Hansen calls the situation the most complex issue TriMet has ever faced in relocating a business for a MAX line, he says the route is set and won’t change.

Originally, the plan was to lay the MAX line down 25 feet from the railroad tracks and shave off about six feet of Beaver Heat Treating’s maintenance shed, but the plan now is to run the MAX line 50 feet from the railroad tracks, which would lay it down directly in the middle of the company’s business.

The change in plans came after accidents in California and Colorado between light rail and freight trains.

Union Pacific says it stands by its decision to require the 50 feet because it is required by the federal government to minimize safety incidents.

“With the rise of passenger rail across the country, it was something we looked at very closely and decided that 50 feet would be the minimum clearance standard moving forward,” said Aaron Hunt, a spokesman from Union Pacific Railroad.

Moran says he hopes “moving forward” can be achieved without going out of business.

“We’re looking at just being able to exist and produce the same services that we do in a different location without interruption,” he said.

The new MAX line will go from Portland State University across the Willamette River and then south along Highway 99 East. All told, the route will be seven miles. Construction begins next year.