Tilikum Crossing

With great fanfare, Portland opened its new bridge across the Willamette River. The Tilikum Crossing, or “Bridge of the People,” is open to pedestrians, bicyclists, buses, streetcars, light rail, and emergency vehicles. Private automobiles and trucks are not allowed on the bridge.

The name comes from the Native-American Chinook Jargon, meaning people, tribe or family.

Tilikum Crossing - not quite ready for traffic
Tilikum Crossing – not quite ready for traffic

Tri-Met’s new light-rail extension crosses the transit bridge as it leaves downtown on its way to Milwaukie (not “Milwaukee”), a suburb on the southeast edge of Portland. Construction on the MAX (Metropolitan Area Express) Orange Line began in 2011. Residents of Milwaukie, committed to the automobile and urban sprawl, and concerned that improved public transit would make it too easy for “those people” to travel there from Portland and spoil its bucolic character. In September 2012, Clackamas County voters passed a ballot initiative requiring that all spending on light rail be approved directly by the voters. Funding for the 7.3 mile route had already been committed, however. Tri-Met eventually sued the county to remind them of their commitment and force them to release the funds.

The bridge is illuminated by a special lighting system programmed to reflect the changing river conditions with light and motion effects. And since this is Portland, after all, with its special affection for bicycles, the bridge has a counter, displaying the daily and cumulative numbers of bicyclists who have ridden across.

The Tilikum Crossing is the final piece of the Portland Streetcar’s circular route connecting the west side – Downtown, Pearl, South Waterfront – with the near east side and the Lloyd Center shopping center. The A Loop runs clockwise, the B Loop counterclockwise. At the northern curve of the circle, the A and B both cross the Willamette on the Broadway Bridge, which opened for traffic 102 years earlier. The Tilikum Crossing should hold up for at least that long.

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