No Private Cars or Trucks Allowed on This Bridge

August 9, 2015

A cable-stayed bridge spanning the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon, was first opened to the public. This open house took place more than a month before the bridge was officially dedicated. The new structure was designed by TriMet, the regional transit authority for the Portland metropolitan area, for the MAX Orange Line light rail passenger trains.

TriMet also took on the job of selecting the name of the bridge from a number of entries submitted by the public. The winning entry was Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People. “Tilikum” is derived from the language of the Chinookan peoples, who lived in that part of the world for thousands of years; the word means people, tribe, or family. This word was chosen as part of the name for the bridge to honor the Multnomah, Cascade, Clackamas, and other Chinookan peoples with deep roots in the area.

Tilikum Crossing serves as a link not only for the MAX Orange Line but also city buses, Portland’s streetcar system, bicycles, pedestrians, and emergency vehicles. The structure has the distinction of being the only major bridge in the United States that was designed to provide access to bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit vehicles but not private automobiles and trucks. In addition, Tilikum Crossing was the first new bridge to be opened across the Willamette area in the Portland metropolitan area in more than four decades.

Bicyclists using the Tilikum Bridge, Providence Bridge Pedal, 2015-08-09.

The August 9 “sneak preview” for Tilikum Crossing proved to be a popular event, with TriMet estimating that at least 40,000 people turned out during that Sunday to set foot on the new bridge. TriMet also estimated that at least 13,000 of those people showed up riding their bicycles. “I watched thousands and thousands of people (biking),” said TriMet spokesperson Mary Fetsch in an interview with the Oregonian. “There was a woman who was 95-years-old riding over the bridge. There was so much excitement.”

The formal opening of Tilikum Crossing took place on September 12. The dignitaries on hand for those ceremonies included Oregon Governor Kate Brown; Confederated Tribe of Grande Ronde Councilwoman Cheryle Kennedy (representing the Chinookan peoples); U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzann Bonamici; and the Federal Transit Administration’s Acting Administrator Therese McMillan.

For more information on Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilikum_Crossing and the 9 August 2015 Oregonian article “Tilikum Crossing: public treated to an open house” at https://www.oregonlive.com/multimedia/index.ssf/2015/08/tilikum_crossing_public_treate.html.

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