MAX Orange Line

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MAX Orange Line
MAX and bus on Tilikum Crossing Sep 2015.jpg
The Tilikum Crossing, which was built as part of the Orange Line project
Type Light rail
System MAX Light Rail
Locale Portland, Oregon
Termini Union Station (in Downtown Portland)
Milwaukie, Oregon vicinity
Stations 17 (plus 1 proposed future station)
Daily ridership 12,200 (as of April 2017)[1]
Website MAX Orange Line
Opened September 12, 2015
Operator(s) TriMet
Line length 7.3 mi (11.7 km)
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrification 750 V DC, overhead catenary
Route diagram
     Green Line (To Clackamas TC)
     Yellow Line (To Expo Center)
Most southbound Yellow Line
trains change to Orange Line
Union StationAmtrakAmtrak
NW 5th & Couch
NW 6th & Davis
SW 5th & Oak
SW 6th & Pine
     Blue Line (To Hillsboro)
     Red Line (To Beaverton)
Pioneer Place
Pioneer Courthouse
     Blue Line (To Gresham)
     Red Line (To Airport)
SW 5th & Jefferson
SW 6th & Jefferson
 B  Loop /  NS  Line Streetcar
PSU/SW 5th & Mill
 A  Loop /  NS  Line Streetcar
PSU/SW 6th & Montgomery
PSU South/SW 5th & Jackson
PSU South/SW 6th & College
     Green Line /      Yellow Line
Most northbound Orange Line
trains change to Yellow Line
Lincoln St/SW 3rd Ave
 A  B  Loops /  NS  Line Streetcar
South Waterfront/SW Moody
Tilikum Crossing over Willamette River
Portland Streetcar  A  B  Loops
Clinton/SE 12th
SE 17th & Rhine
SE 17th & Holgate
SE Harold St (future)
SE Bybee
SE Tacoma/Johnson Creek
SE Park

The MAX Orange Line, also known as the Portland–Milwaukie Light Rail Project, is a light rail line in the Metropolitan Area Express light rail system of TriMet in Portland, Oregon. The $1.49 billion project[2] is the second part of a two-phase transportation plan known as the South Corridor Project, bringing light rail service to Clackamas County. Starting in downtown Portland and following the Portland Transit Mall, the 7.3-mile (11.7 km) Orange Line runs between Union Station and Milwaukie, terminating at Park Avenue,[3] in unincorporated Clackamas County just outside Milwaukie proper. The first construction work, related to the new Tilikum Crossing over the Willamette River began on June 30, 2011,[4] and the line opened for service on September 12, 2015.[5][6]

The Orange Line was built off of the downtown terminus of the Green and Yellow Lines, at Portland State University. During planning and construction, the new bridge being built for the line used the temporary name of Portland–Milwaukie Light Rail Bridge,[7][8] but in April 2014 it was officially named Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People.[9] From there, the line turns south and continues into Southeast Portland. The stations serve the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, the Brooklyn neighborhood, and Milwaukie, Oregon through the McLoughlin Boulevard corridor. 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.[10] 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.


In the early 1970s, a light rail line was proposed in this corridor. It would have run from Downtown Portland via the Hawthorne Bridge to Oregon City, primarily along the old Portland Traction Company right-of-way. This route was to be the first of five light rail lines which would have run over existing rail lines in the Portland region. The hope was to get this Portland – Oregon City line running as soon as possible by using secondhand PCC streetcars from Toronto until brand new Boeing light rail vehicles could be obtained. The light rail line was shelved when the planned Mount Hood Freeway was canceled in the mid-1970s and the region's transportation planning redirected to transit alternatives to the Mount Hood Freeway in the Portland – Gresham corridor.

In the mid-1990s, light rail was planned again along much of this corridor as part of the proposed "South-North Light Rail" line which was to 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"[11] 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.[11] However, three months later, a majority of voters in Clark County, Washington, rejected a bond issue to provide that county's $237.5 million share of the South-North project's funding,[12] 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.[13] The I-205 line opened in 2009, as the MAX Green Line.

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.[14]

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.[15] The approval meant that TriMet could begin purchasing right-of-way and some construction materials.[15]

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.

In July 2013, the project reached 50-percent completion. The line was tentatively scheduled to open on September 12, 2015.[16]

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.[17] 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.

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.[18]

On August 30, 2015, test trains began running along the entire Orange Line route, in advance of the September 12 opening date.[19] The line opened for service on September 12 at 11 a.m.[6]

Route description[edit]

The Orange Line originates at a three-track stub terminal at Park Avenue and McLoughlin Boulevard in Milwaukie. The line runs at grade alongside McLoughlin Boulevard until it reaches 22nd Avenue. Here, the line leaves McLoughlin Boulevard via an elevated viaduct. The viaduct takes the line across Kellogg Lake, and into the next stop at Downtown Milwaukie. From here past the location of a proposed infill station at Harold Street, the Orange Line runs parallel to active Portland and Western and then Union Pacific Railroad rights-of-way and McLoughlin Boulevard. At SE 17th Avenue, the Orange Line turns north, and runs in the median of 17th Avenue, with stops at Holgate Boulevard and at Rhine Street. After passing Pershing Street, the line leaves the median of 17th Avenue and again runs alongside the Union Pacific tracks until just southeast of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, making an intermediate stop at 12th Avenue and Clinton Street.

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 though the MAX terminal loop adjacent to the PSU South station en route to 6th Avenue, the northbound transit mall street.


Opening day

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.[20]

A new bus line 291-Orange Night Bus runs south from downtown to Milwaukie, shadowing the Orange Line route, after 11:30 p.m.[21] 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.

Proposed extension[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.[22]


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".[23] 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.[24]

Public art[edit]

Public art installed along the Orange Line include:[25]


  1. ^ "April 2017 Monthly Performance Report" (PDF). TriMet. Retrieved July 3, 2017. 
  2. ^ "Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project Fact Sheet" (PDF). TriMet. June 2014. Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  3. ^ "Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project Fact Sheet" (PDF). TriMet. February 2014. Retrieved April 19, 2014. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ "Fall 2015 Service Improvements". TriMet. August 2015. Archived from the original on September 27, 2015. Retrieved September 1, 2015. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ "Portland–Milwaukie Light Rail Bridge Fact Sheet" (PDF). TriMet. August 2012. Retrieved July 27, 2013. 
  8. ^ Rose, Joseph (December 8, 2010). "TriMet board gives greenlight to Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail bridge funding". The Oregonian. Retrieved September 24, 2011. 
  9. ^ Rose, Joseph (April 16, 2014). "Tilikum Crossing: New Portland bridge named after Chinook word for 'people'". The Oregonian. Retrieved April 16, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Stay safe near the new MAX Orange Line" (PDF). TriMet. Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  11. ^ a b Oliver, Gordon (November 10, 1994). "One down, more to go for reality of north-south rail line". The Oregonian, p. C10.
  12. ^ Oliver, Gordon (February 8, 1995). "Clark County turns down north-south light rail". The Oregonian, p. 1.
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ Rose, Joseph (March 29, 2011). "Feds approve design for Portland-Milwaukie light rail line". The Oregonian. Retrieved April 5, 2011. 
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ Rose, Joseph (July 26, 2013). "TriMet announces opening date for Portland-Milwaukie light rail line". The Oregonian. p. B3. Retrieved July 27, 2013. 
  17. ^ Fetsch, Mary (March 27, 2015). "MAX Orange Line – on time and under budget". TriMet. Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  18. ^ 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. 
  19. ^ "MAX Orange Line to begin test runs". Trains Magazine. August 28, 2015. Retrieved August 29, 2015. 
  20. ^ Brian Lum (June 19, 2015). "You asked: How will the MAX Orange Line work in Downtown Portland?". TriMet. Retrieved September 1, 2015. 
  21. ^ "291-Orange Night Bus". TriMet. Retrieved 2015-09-17. 
  22. ^ Redden, Jim (August 20, 2009). "Cities fight to avoid being left at station". Portland Tribune. Retrieved July 27, 2013. 
  23. ^ Theriault, Denis C. (May 31, 2012). "Checkpoint Clackamas! Keeping Portland Out—to Let More Republicans In?". The Portland Mercury. Retrieved February 22, 2016. 
  24. ^ Zheng, Yuxing (September 18, 2012). "Clackamas County anti-rail measure passes comfortably; effect could resonate for decades". The Oregonian. Retrieved February 22, 2016. 
  25. ^ "Public Art on MAX Orange Line". TriMet. Retrieved November 30, 2015. 

External links[edit]