MAX Orange Line
The MAX Orange Line is a light rail service in the MAX Light Rail system of TriMet in Portland, Oregon, United States. The $1.49 billion project 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, 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, and the line opened for service on September 12, 2015.
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, but in April 2014 it was officially named Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People. 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. 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 1975, the Columbia Region Association of Governments adopted a transportation plan for 1990 that envisioned two light rail lines along the southeast corridor; one line would have run from downtown Portland via the Hawthorne Bridge to Oregon City and another from Milwaukie to Lents, primarily along old Portland Traction Company rights-of-way. These routes were to be the first two 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. In 1975, Tri-Met lost its option to purchase the used streetcars after the Toronto Transit Commission declined to renew Tri-Met's hold. 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" 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. 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, 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. 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.
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. The approval meant that TriMet could begin purchasing right-of-way and some construction materials.
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.
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. 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 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 through the MAX terminal loop adjacent to the PSU South station en route to 6th Avenue, the northbound transit mall street.
|↓||Southbound travel only|
|Union Station/Northwest 5th & Glisan†↓||Portland
|Northwest 5th & Couch↓||2015||—||—||No|
|Southwest 5th & Oak↓||2015||—||—||No|
|Pioneer Place/Southwest 5th↓||2015||—||—||No|
|Southwest 5th & Jefferson↓||2015||—||—||No|
|PSU Urban Center/Southwest 5th & Mill↓||2015||Portland Streetcar||—||No|
|PSU South/Southwest 5th and Jackson↓||2015||—||—||No|
|Lincoln Street/Southwest 3rd Avenue||Portland||2015||—||—||—||No|
|South Waterfront/Southwest Moody||2015||—||—||—||No|
|Clinton Street/Southeast 12th Avenue||2015||—||—||—||No|
|Southeast 17th Avenue and Rhine Street||2015||—||—||—||No|
|Southeast 17th Avenue and Holgate Boulevard||2015||—||—||—||No|
|Southeast Bybee Boulevard||2015||—||—||—||No|
|Southeast Tacoma/Johnson Creek||2015||—||—||318||Yes|
|Southeast Park Avenue†||2015||—||—||401||Yes|
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.
A new bus line 291-Orange Night Bus runs south from downtown to Milwaukie, shadowing the Orange Line route, after 11:30 p.m. 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.
Public art installed along the Orange Line include:
- Orange Lining: Art Starts Now (temporary)
- Impressed Concrete
- Journey Through Time
- Trio (Elizabeth Conner, 2013)
- Flooded Data Machine
- Tilikum Light
- Sonic Dish
- We Have Always Been Here (Greg A. Robinson, 2015)
- Velosaurus (Horatio Law, 2015)
- Passage (Bill Will, 2014)
- Along These Lines (Anne Storrs, 2015)
- Tri It (Blaine Fontana, 2015)
- Kerf (Thomas Sayre, 2015)
- To Grandmother's House (Patrick Gracewood, 2015)
- Bear Catching Salmon
- One Tree Trestle
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". 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.
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