TriMet sues Clackamas County over light rail delays

TriMet is suing Clackamas County to compel the county to stop delaying work necessary to complete the $1.49 billion Portland-to-Milwaukie light rail project.

The transit agency said Clackamas County has long been a partner in the project. The county commission voted three times in support of moving the project into the design and construction phases.

But Trimet, in a news release, said the county stopped cooperating after the November election, delaying final project acquisitions and $1.3 million in road and signal improvements required to move the project forward. Work on the 7.3-mile transit project is 35 percent complete.

A spokeswoman for Clackamas County couldn't immediately be reached Thursday afternoon.

Clackamas County voters last fall approved, by a wide margin, a measure that calls for a public vote whenever county resources are committed toward public rail projects.

TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch said the agency understands that, based on last fall's vote, that county voters want a say in rail projects.

"But this does not affect the current Portland-Milwaukie project," she said in a news release. "Unfortunately, we have to take this action to prevent delays that could impact the overall cost and schedule of the Project."

TriMet filed the lawsuit in Clackamas County Circuit Court seeking a declaratory judgement, expedited consideration, and for the court to retain jurisdiction so it can supervise the county's participation until work is complete.

TriMet said it has made efforts to resolve the county's issues on the project, and has also sought alternative ways of resolving any disputes, including through mediation or a neutral third party. Those options remain on the table, the agency said.

"We continue to call on the County to follow through on their long- standing commitments," Fetsch said. "Our focus is to keep the project on time, on budget and create jobs as we build a more efficient transit system."