MAX Orange Line

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MAX Orange Line
Tilikum Crossing from north sidewalk with MAX train 2016.jpg
A two-car train over Tilikum Crossing
TypeLight rail
SystemMAX Light Rail
LocalePortland, Oregon, U.S.
TerminiUnion Station in downtown Portland (north)
Southeast Park Avenue in Milwaukie (south)
Daily ridership11,500 (as of September 2019)[1]
WebsiteMAX Orange Line
OpenedSeptember 12, 2015 (2015-09-12)
CharacterAt-grade and elevated
Rolling stock
Line length7.3 mi (11.7 km)[2]
Number of tracks2
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrification750 V DC, overhead catenary
Route diagram

Most southbound Yellow Line
trains become Orange Line
Union Station/NW 5th & Glisan
AmtrakDivision Transit Project
Union Station/NW 6th & Hoyt
AmtrakDivision Transit Project
NW 5th & Couch
NW 6th & Davis
SW 5th & Oak
SW 6th & Pine
Pioneer Place
Pioneer Courthouse
to Gresham to Airport
City Hall/SW 5th & Jefferson
SW 6th & Madison
 B  Loop NS  Line (SW Market St)
PSU Urban Ctr/SW 5th & Mill
Portland Streetcar
 A  Loop NS  Line (SW Mill/SW Montgomery St)
PSU Urban Ctr/SW 6th & Montgomery
Portland Streetcar
PSU South/SW 5th & Jackson
Division Transit Project
PSU South/SW 6th & College
Division Transit Project
Most northbound Orange Line
trains become Yellow Line
Lincoln St/SW 3rd
Division Transit Project
 NS  Line (SW Moody Ave)
South Waterfront/SW Moody
Portland StreetcarDivision Transit Project
Portland StreetcarDivision Transit Project
 A  Loop B  Loop
Clinton/SE 12th
SE 17th & Rhine
SE 17th & Holgate
SE Harold (planned)
SE Bybee
SE Tacoma/Johnson Creek
SE Park

The MAX Orange Line is a light rail service in Portland, Oregon, United states, operated by TriMet as part of the MAX Light Rail system. It connects Portland City Center in the north to Portland State University (PSU), Southeast Portland, Milwaukie, and Oak Grove in the south. The line originates as a southbound through service of the Yellow Line at Union Station/Northwest 5th & Glisan station from where it serves the 5th Avenue segment of the Portland Transit Mall alongside the Green Line. On the northbound segment of the transit mall on 6th Avenue, the Orange Line through operates into the Yellow Line bound for Expo Center station in North Portland. South of the transit mall, the Orange Line operates a two-track, 7.3-mile (11.7 km) segment that terminates in Oak Grove, just outside of Milwaukie proper in unincorporated Clackamas County. It serves 17 stations between Union Station and Southeast Park Avenue. Service runs for approximately 21 hours daily with a minimum headway of 15 minutes during most of the day.

The $1.49 billion Portland–Milwaukie light rail project was the second part of a two-phase plan known as the South Corridor transportation project, which expanded light rail service to Interstate 205 (I-205) and the Portland Transit Mall in its first phase.[3][4] This MAX extension, which followed years of failed light rail plans for Clackamas County, began construction work in mid-2011.[5] As part of the project, TriMet built the first major "car-free" bridge in the country, known as Tilikum Crossing, over the Willamette River. The line opened on September 12, 2015.[6][7] It carried an average of 11,500 daily weekday riders in September 2019.


Background and early proposals[edit]

In 1975, amid calls for the transfer of Mount Hood Freeway funds to other projects in the Portland region, the Columbia Region Association of Governments (CRAG) proposed five "transitway" corridors emanating from the center of Portland.[8][9] This interim plan, which CRAG adopted the following month, envision a light rail corridor from downtown Portland to Oregon City and another from Milwaukie to Lents, both primarily along old Portland Traction Company rights-of-way.[10] Indecision regarding the exact use of the transfer money, as requested by the Federal Highway Administration,[11] led to a delay in acquiring the funds.[12][13] That November, TriMet lost its option to purchase used PCC streetcars from Toronto, which it had hoped to use on the proposed Portland–Oregon City line,[14] after the Toronto Transit Commission declined to renew TriMet's hold.[15]

After several studies and years of planning,[16] Metro (the successor to CRAG) adopted a regional transportation plan in 1982 that redirected priority to an eventual light rail line in the Banfield Corridor.[17]

In the mid-1990s, light rail was planned again along much of this corridor as part of the proposed South–North Line, which would have run from Clackamas Town Center to Milwaukie, then north to Downtown Portland and along Interstate Avenue to Vancouver, Washington. In November 1994, "nearly two-thirds"[18] of voters in the Oregon part of the Portland metropolitan area voted in support of a $475 million bond issue to provide the local-area share (Oregon portion) of the project's estimated $2.8 billion cost.[18] However, three months later, a majority of voters in Clark County, Washington, rejected a sales tax and vehicle excise tax to provide that county's $237.5 million share of the South-North project's funding,[19] leading eventually to those plans' being shelved. (Plans for a MAX line north from downtown Portland along Interstate Avenue were later revived, as the Yellow Line, but without the portion extending across the Columbia River to Vancouver, and this opened in 2004.)

Planning for light rail connecting Portland with Clackamas County later resumed. After public meetings it was decided that the first MAX line to Clackamas County should be along Interstate 205, from Gateway to Clackamas Town Center, but that this would be phase 1 of a two-part expansion of the MAX system, with a Portland–Milwaukie line as phase 2.[20] The I-205 line opened in 2009, as the MAX Green Line.

Revival and funding[edit]

Tilikum Crossing under construction in 2013

Meanwhile, planning for the Portland–Milwaukie line continued, including study of, and public input on, several different alternatives for the exact route. In 2008, the Locally Preferred Alternative was chosen. The MAX Light Rail to Milwaukie would terminate at Park Avenue station rather than Lake Road, as originally planned in 2003.[21]

On April 5, 2011, the Federal Transit Administration approved the start of the project's final design; at that time, design work was roughly thirty percent complete and projected to be finished in about a year.[22] The approval meant that TriMet could begin purchasing right-of-way and some construction materials.[22]

Construction began on June 30, 2011, initially limited to work at the site of Tilikum Crossing over the Willamette River, but right-of-way preparation work (such as removal of trees) began in the southern part of downtown Portland in late September 2011. During planning and construction, the new bridge being built for the line used the temporary name of Portland–Milwaukie Light Rail Bridge,[23][24] but in April 2014 it was officially named Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People.[25]

In July 2013, the project reached 50-percent completion. The line was tentatively scheduled to open on September 12, 2015.[26]

As part of construction, safety improvements were made at the SE 8th, 11th, and 12th avenues crossings in Southeast Portland, and the SE Mailwell Drive, SE Harrison, Monroe and Washington streets, and 21st Avenue crossings in Milwaukie.[27] This allows these crossings to be designated quiet zones, where Union Pacific Railroad, Portland and Western Railroad and MAX trains do not have to use their horns (four times per safety regulations) when going through an intersection.

As construction finished in March 2015, the line was under budget in the range of $10 million to $40 million. After a petition from Jeff Merkley, the Federal Transit Administration approved the addition of switch heaters, catenary ice caps, and additional station shelters, totaling $3.6 million, which were deferred from the original plans during the funding agreement with the FTA.[28] However, the remaining 50% matching funds from the FTA must be returned, leaving the excess local funds in the range of $5 million to $20 million after the funding process is complete in 2019. These TriMet bond funds can only be used for capital projects, due to the conditions under which they were raised.

The Orange Line on opening day crossing Tilkum Crossing with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde

On May 15, 2015, the first trips run with passengers at regular operating speed along the full Orange Line carried around 500 people, including Governor Kate Brown and Senator Jeff Merkley.[29]

On August 30, 2015, test trains began running along the entire Orange Line route, in advance of the September 12 opening date.[30] The line opened for service on September 12 at 11 a.m.[7]


A MAX train the median of SE 17th Avenue, passing TriMet's Operations Headquarters
MAX at the south end of downtown Portland, on the viaduct carrying it over Harbor Drive and River Parkway

The Orange Line originates at a three-track stub terminal at Park Avenue and McLoughlin Boulevard in Oak Grove, just south of Milwaukie proper.[31][32] The line runs at grade alongside McLoughlin Boulevard until it reaches 22nd Avenue. Here, the line leaves McLoughlin Boulevard via an elevated viaduct called the Kellogg Bridge.[33] The viaduct takes the line across Kellogg Lake, and into the next stop at downtown Milwaukie.[34] From here past the location of a proposed infill station at Harold Street, the Orange Line runs parallel to active Portland and Western and Union Pacific Railroad rights-of-way and McLoughlin Boulevard.[35]:15–16 At Southeast 17th Avenue, the Orange Line turns north, and runs in the median of 17th Avenue, with stops at Holgate Boulevard and Rhine Street.[36] After passing Pershing Street, the line leaves the median of 17th Avenue and again runs alongside the Union Pacific tracks until just southeast of OMSI,[37][38] making an intermediate stop at 12th Avenue and Clinton Street.[39][2]

After stopping at OMSI, the Orange Line tracks merge with those of the Portland Streetcar's Loop Service and cross the Tilikum Crossing bridge. After the MAX station at South Waterfront, at the southwest end of the bridge, the Streetcar tracks split off and join the tracks of that system's North/South Line. Leaving the station, the Orange Line crosses Moody Avenue and ascends toward and onto an elevated viaduct taking it over various streets and gradually turning west to enter Southwest Lincoln Street at Naito Parkway. The line runs in the median of Lincoln Street to a stop at SW 3rd Avenue and then continues along Lincoln to 5th Avenue, where it and enters the Portland Transit Mall at the PSU South station. Northbound trains pass through the MAX terminal loop adjacent to the PSU South station en route to 6th Avenue, the northbound transit mall street.

A geographic map of the MAX Orange Line relative to the rest of the network


Stations on the Orange Line
The platform of Union Station NW 5th & Glisan station with riders waiting near the shelter and the Portland Union Station clock tower in the background
Most southbound Yellow Line trains switch to Orange Line service at Union Station/Northwest 5th & Gilsan
Southeast Bybee Boulevard station
Southeast Park Avenue station, the Orange Line's southern terminus

The Portland–Milwaukie extension, served exclusively by the Orange Line, consists of ten stations between Lincoln Street/Southwest 3rd Avenue and Southeast Park Avenue. Of these ten stations, two are located within and just outside of the city of Milwaukie in Clackamas County. Orange Line trains serve 17 stations total; the remaining seven are located in downtown Portland along the southbound segment of the Portland Transit Mall on 5th Avenue and are shared with the Green Line. Transfers to the Yellow Line, which runs northbound from the PSU South stations in downtown Portland to the Expo Center, can be made at any of the seven stations along the transit corridor's 6th Avenue alignment, although most northbound Orange Line trains through operate into the Yellow Line.[40]

Transfers to the Blue Line and the Red Line are available at Pioneer Place/Southwest 5th station.[2] Additionally, the Orange Line provides connections to local and intercity bus services at several stops across the line, Amtrak near Union Station/Northwest 5th & Glisan station,[40] and the Portland Streetcar at the PSU Urban Center/Southwest 5th & Mill and OMSI/Southeast Water stations.[41]

Southbound travel only
Station Location Commenced Line transfers[42] Other connections and notes[42][40][a]
Union Station/Northwest 5th & Glisan†↓ Portland

2015 Amtrak Amtrak
Intercity bus service Greyhound, POINT, TCTD
Serves Portland Union Station
Northwest 5th & Couch 2015
Southwest 5th & Oak 2015
Pioneer Place/Southwest 5th 2015 Serves the Pioneer Courthouse, Pioneer Courthouse Square
City Hall/Southwest 5th & Jefferson 2015
PSU Urban Center/Southwest 5th & Mill 2015 Tram interchange Portland Streetcar
Serves Portland State University
PSU South/Southwest 5th and Jackson 2015 Serves Portland State University
Lincoln Street/Southwest 3rd Avenue Portland 2015
South Waterfront/Southwest Moody 2015 Tram interchange Portland Streetcar
Serves OHSU Robertson Life Sciences Building, Tilikum Crossing
OMSI/Southeast Water 2015 Tram interchange Portland Streetcar
Serves OMSI, Tilikum Crossing
Clinton Street/Southeast 12th Avenue 2015
Southeast 17th Avenue and Rhine Street 2015
Southeast 17th Avenue and Holgate Boulevard 2015
Southeast Bybee Boulevard 2015
Southeast Tacoma/Johnson Creek 2015
Milwaukie/Main Street Milwaukie 2015
Southeast Park Avenue 2015


The Orange Line is interlined with the Yellow Line. Upon arrival at Union Station, southbound Yellow Line trains become Orange Line trains before they travel along the Portland Transit Mall. Likewise, inbound Orange Line trains become Yellow Line trains upon arrival at the PSU South MAX stations before traveling north on the Portland Transit Mall. Thus, on northbound Orange Line trains, the colored square denoting the route color flashes yellow and orange, and the destination sign flashes "City Center - Expo Center," indicating that the train will become a Yellow Line train upon entering the Transit Mall. The reverse happens on southbound Yellow Line trains.

During peak hours, some Orange Line trains do not become Yellow Line trains and instead loop back along the Transit Mall to return to Milwaukie. This is due to higher projected ridership along the Orange Line than the Yellow Line.[43]

A new bus line 291-Orange Night Bus runs south from downtown to Milwaukie, shadowing the Orange Line route, after 11:30 p.m.[44] The purpose of this was to allow the last Orange Line trains to return to TriMet's Ruby Junction maintenance and operations facility earlier, preserving the existing early-morning window that TriMet uses for maintenance work on the system.


Although this project was planned for many years, it faced strong opposition by opponents of perceived encroachment of Portland townscape on their communities, so-called "Portland Creep".[45] In September 2012, opponents succeeded in passing a ballot initiative requiring that all Clackamas County spending on light rail be directly approved by the voters.[46]

Future plans[edit]

Although only a long-term proposal at this stage, it is possible the line may one day be extended to Oregon City along the McLoughlin Boulevard corridor.[47]


  1. ^ This list of service connections excludes TriMet bus connections. For a complete list that includes all transfers, see: List of MAX Light Rail stations.
  2. ^ Most Orange Line trains on the Portland Transit Mall travel southbound only. Most northbound trains through operate into the Yellow Line bound for Expo Center in North Portland at PSU South/Southwest 6th and College.


  1. ^ "September 2019 Monthly Performance Report" (PDF). TriMet. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c "Portland–Milwaukie MAX Orange Line" (PDF). TriMet. July 2016. Archived (PDF) from the original on April 23, 2019. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  3. ^ "Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project Fact Sheet" (PDF). TriMet. June 2014. Retrieved 5 April 2015.
  4. ^ "Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project Fact Sheet" (PDF). TriMet. February 2014. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  5. ^ Rose, Joseph (June 29–30, 2011). "Construction begins on new light-rail bridge in Portland that will go up 'piece by piece'". The Oregonian. Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  6. ^ "Fall 2015 Service Improvements". TriMet. August 2015. Archived from the original on September 27, 2015. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  7. ^ a b Njus, Elliot (September 12, 2015). "The wait's over: TriMet's Orange Line, Tilikum Crossing up and running". The Oregonian. Retrieved September 18, 2015.
  8. ^ "Meetings on transit ideas slated". The Oregonian. May 4, 1975. p. C2. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  9. ^ Hortsch, Dan (September 28, 1975). "Mt. Hood Freeway may be dead – but it's still kicking". The Sunday Oregonian. p. D1. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  10. ^ Hortsch, Dan (September 28, 1975). "Transferred money would go toward multiplicity of confusing projects". The Oregonian. p. D1. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  11. ^ "Freeway fund report delayed". The Oregonian. December 19, 1975. p. F8.
  12. ^ Mosey, Ed (January 8, 1976). "Delay urged in deciding use of Mt. Hood freeway funds". The Oregonian. p. A24.
  13. ^ Hortsch, Dan (January 23, 1976). "Shift of freeway funds stirs complex situation". The Oregonian. p. A15.
  14. ^ "Bus firm OKs option to buy 15 old streetcars". The Oregonian. May 7, 1974. p. 6.
  15. ^ Hobart, Sue (November 30, 1975). "Tri-Met loses option to buy used streetcars". The Oregonian. p. D6. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  16. ^ Hortsch, Dan (March 14, 1976). "Transportation study projects traffic congestion weak spots". The Oregonian. p. E5.
  17. ^ Federman, Stan (June 8, 1982). "Panel OKs regional transportation plan". The Oregonian. p. B4.
  18. ^ a b Oliver, Gordon (November 10, 1994). "One down, more to go for reality of north-south rail line". The Oregonian, p. C10.
  19. ^ Oliver, Gordon (February 8, 1995). "Clark County turns down north-south light rail". The Oregonian, p. 1.
  20. ^ Redden, Jim (September 10, 2009). "After 35 years of waiting, TriMet's Green Line hits all the parties: Thousands ride new I-205 line that was born of a '70s freeway rebellion". Portland Tribune. Retrieved December 9, 2014.
  21. ^ Rose, Joseph (March 29, 2011). "Feds approve design for Portland-Milwaukie light rail line". The Oregonian. Retrieved April 5, 2011.
  22. ^ a b "Portland light rail extension starts final design". Railway Gazette International. April 5, 2011. Archived from the original on April 5, 2011. Retrieved April 5, 2011.
  23. ^ "Portland–Milwaukie Light Rail Bridge Fact Sheet" (PDF). TriMet. August 2012. Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  24. ^ Rose, Joseph (December 8, 2010). "TriMet board gives greenlight to Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail bridge funding". The Oregonian. Retrieved September 24, 2011.
  25. ^ Rose, Joseph (April 16, 2014). "Tilikum Crossing: New Portland bridge named after Chinook word for 'people'". The Oregonian. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  26. ^ Rose, Joseph (July 26, 2013). "TriMet announces opening date for Portland-Milwaukie light rail line". The Oregonian. p. B3. Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  27. ^ "Stay safe near the new MAX Orange Line" (PDF). TriMet. Retrieved 5 April 2015.
  28. ^ Fetsch, Mary (March 27, 2015). "MAX Orange Line – on time and under budget". TriMet. Retrieved 5 April 2015.
  29. ^ Tomlinson, Stuart (May 15, 2015). "Gov. Kate Brown, 500 others are first passengers on MAX's new Orange line". The Oregonian. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  30. ^ "MAX Orange Line to begin test runs". Trains magazine. August 28, 2015. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  31. ^ "SE Park Ave Station Area" (PDF). TriMet. October 2014. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  32. ^ Google (January 17, 2020). "SE Park Ave MAX Station" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  33. ^ "Portland–Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project Structures" (PDF). TriMet. October 2013. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  34. ^ "Milwaukie/Main Street station area". TriMet. October 2014. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  35. ^ Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project Locally Preferred Alternative Report (PDF) (Report). Metro. July 24, 2008. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  36. ^ "SE 17th Avenue: Holgate Boulevard and Rhine Street stations". TriMet. October 2014. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  37. ^ Google (January 20, 2020). "45°29'55.9"N 122°38'53.6"W" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved January 20, 2020.
  38. ^ Google (January 20, 2020). "OMSI/SE Water MAX Station" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved January 20, 2020.
  39. ^ "Clinton/SE 12th Ave Station". TriMet. October 2014. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  40. ^ a b c Portland City Center and Transit Mall (PDF) (Map). TriMet. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 10, 2019. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  41. ^ "Maps + Schedules - Portland Streetcar". Portland Streetcar. Archived from the original on February 10, 2019. Retrieved October 11, 2018.
  42. ^ a b Rail System Map with transfers (PDF) (Map). TriMet. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 10, 2019. Retrieved July 25, 2018.
  43. ^ Brian Lum (June 19, 2015). "You asked: How will the MAX Orange Line work in Downtown Portland?". TriMet. Archived from the original on October 26, 2015. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  44. ^ "291-Orange Night Bus". TriMet. Retrieved 2015-09-17.
  45. ^ Theriault, Denis C. (May 31, 2012). "Checkpoint Clackamas! Keeping Portland Out—to Let More Republicans In?". The Portland Mercury. Retrieved February 22, 2016.
  46. ^ Zheng, Yuxing (September 18, 2012). "Clackamas County anti-rail measure passes comfortably; effect could resonate for decades". The Oregonian. Retrieved February 22, 2016.
  47. ^ Redden, Jim (August 20, 2009). "Cities fight to avoid being left at station". Portland Tribune. Retrieved July 27, 2013.

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