LTD to move along west Eugene as EMX expansion continues

The EMX expansion project will include 27 new customer boarding platforms where riders can take the bus every 10 minutes on weekdays. (Creative Commons Archive)

Since 2011, more than 4,000 UO students board the EMX every day according to Lane Transit District.

The Bus Rapid Transit route is the most successful route of 35 in the LTD system. It carries 25 percent of all boarding on weekdays.

After completing two corridors connecting downtown Eugene and the Gateway area, the EMX is underway to expand to West Eugene. The route runs across 3,000 residential addresses and 550 businesses from downtown Eugene to Target and Walmart on West 11th Avenue.

LTD spokeswoman Lisa VanWinkle said the new EMX line will provide similar services as the existing system. With an additional 27 new customer boarding platforms, riders can take the bus every 10 minutes on weekdays, running on newly built concrete streets, which are expected to last up to 50 years. The project also includes the rebuilding of five miles of new sidewalks, six miles of pavements and two new biker-pedestrian bridges across the Amazon Creek, located south of Buck Street and between Bailey Hill and Bertelsen Roads, VanWinkle said.

After 10 years of planning, the $94.4 million project finally came to life last March, starting with construction in downtown Eugene on Charnelton Street from West Sixth to West 11th Avenue.

UO student Mila Qi is a resident of Titan Court, located in the middle of construction on Charnelton Street. She said she has supported the EMX expansion, but has mixed feelings on the constant construction during the day.

“I’m not home much during the daytime so I (don’t) know how loud the construction was,” Qi said. “But it was (an) inconvenience when they closed down some of the roads. Many of my friends who (were) aware of the changes didn’t like it at all.”

Qi added that LTD has reached out to all of the building’s residents with information on the progress of the construction via emails. LTD has not only reached out to students, but also to local residents and businesses. VanWinkle said they have given free passes to residential addresses and local businesses.

With the exception of Charnelton Street, all construction will happen during nighttime from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., and construction noise is an inevitability.

VanWinkle said LTD is doing its best to minimize the inconveniences residents and businesses may face during the construction phase.

“No one likes to live near construction,” VanWinkle said. “We are trying to go well beyond to show that we care and make an impact in a tangible way.”

With the concern of increasing traffic noise in the future, LTD is testing out construction with some local apartments on the route. VanWinkle said she expects the increase to be minor, but LTD is willing to work with residents to find solutions in needed cases.

Not everyone considers the expansion necessary. Our Money Our Transit, a campaign against the West Eugene EMX, has voiced concerns that too much tax money is being put into the project among other issues.

UO student Mohammed Kaid agreed. He moved to an apartment on West 11th Avenue, looking for a more quiet place to live last year. Kaid rarely takes public transportation and drives to school everyday.

“I don’t see the need of whole new bus line running through (West 11th Avenue) when they already have two, three buses running the similar route,” he said. “That doesn’t sound like saving money.”

Currently, LTD bus routes 36, 41 and 43 all run from downtown Eugene to Target and Walmart on three different routes. With the new EMX line being implemented by 2017, VanWinkle said, some of those routes will be cut down.

VanWinkle said LTD wants the EMX to be accessible for everyone to travel to school, work or go home.

“I can see many people oppose this because they don’t take transportation or they are afraid of losing customers during construction,” VanWinkle said. “But I find when I actively work with them to solve the difficulties, it’s not that bad.”

The project will connect 52,000 residents with 81,500 jobs within half a mile of the route during and after the construction phase, according to LTD. The first trip plans to run in early fall of 2017.

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