MAX Red Line

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MAX Red Line
A MAX train stopped with its doors open and passengers boarding it at Portland International Airport station
A two-car train at Portland International Airport
Other name(s)Airport MAX[1]
LocalePortland, Oregon, U.S.
TerminiBeaverton Transit Center (west)
Portland International Airport (east)
Stations26[2] (1 temporarily closed)[3]
WebsiteMAX Red Line
TypeLight rail
SystemMAX Light Rail
Daily ridership22,530 (as of September 2019)[4]
OpenedSeptember 10, 2001 (2001-09-10)
Line length5.5 mi (8.9 km)[a]
Number of tracks1–2
CharacterAt-grade, elevated, and underground
Route diagram

Beaverton TC
WES Commuter Rail
Sunset TC
Washington Park
Goose Hollow/SW Jefferson
Kings Hill/SW Salmon (closed)
Providence Park
Stadium - The Noun Project.svg
 B  Loop NS  Line (SW 11th Ave)
 A  Loop NS  Line (SW 10th Ave)
Galleria/SW 10th
Portland Streetcar
Library/SW 9th
Portland Streetcar
Pioneer Square N
Portland Transit Mall
Pioneer Square S
Portland Transit Mall
to PSU to Milwaukie (SW 5th Ave)
Mall/SW 5th (closed)
Mall/SW 4th (closed)
Morrison/SW 3rd
Yamhill District
Oak/SW 1st
Skidmore Fountain
Old Town/Chinatown
to PSU
to Union Station
cont. to Milwaukie
Rose Quarter TC
Stadium - The Noun Project.svg
Convention Center
Portland Streetcar
 B  Loop (NE Grand Ave)
 A  Loop (NE 7th Ave)
NE 7th
Portland Streetcar
Lloyd Center/NE 11th
Hollywood/NE 42nd TC
NE 60th
NE 82nd
Gateway/NE 99th TC
to Gresham to Clackamas
I-84 / I-205 (northbound)
Parkrose/Sumner TC
I-205 (southbound)
Mt Hood
Portland International Airport
Portland International Airport

The MAX Red Line is a light rail service in Portland, Oregon, United States, operated by TriMet as part of the MAX Light Rail system. It serves 26 stations between Beaverton and Portland, running predominantly east–west. An airport rail link, the line connects central Beaverton, Portland City Center, and Northeast Portland to Portland International Airport. From Beaverton Transit Center to Gateway/Northeast 99th Avenue Transit Center, the Red Line shares its route with the Blue Line and the Green Line; it then splits to a 5.5-mile (8.9 km) segment to Portland International Airport station that is referred to as the Airport MAX. Service runs for 22 hours per day on a headway of at least 15 minutes daily. It is the second-busiest service in the MAX system, carrying an average of 22,530 passengers per weekday in September 2019.

Proposals for an airport light rail service surfaced in the mid-1980s and efforts were accelerated following Portland International Airport's rapid expansion in the 1990s. Conceived from an unsolicited proposal from engineering company Bechtel in 1997, the Airport MAX Project was designed and built under a public–private partnership between a consortium of Bechtel and Trammell Crow, the Port of Portland, and local governments. The extension began construction in 1999 and was completed in just under two years due to the use of local and private financing and existing public right-of-way. The Red Line commenced service between downtown Portland and the airport on September 10, 2001. Amid strong westside ridership on the Blue Line, Red Line service was extended west along existing tracks to Beaverton Transit Center in 2003. TriMet is planning several improvements for the line, including a service extension farther west to Fair Complex/Hillsboro Airport station in Hillsboro by 2024.


Background and partnership agreement[edit]

a road entrance to Cascade Station facing Sports Authority
Cascade Station shopping center, which Bechtel developed in exchange for building the Airport MAX

In 1975, during the preliminary design phase of Interstate 205 (I-205), Portland transportation planners recommended downsizing the freeway and including right-of-way reserved for public transit; this was later realized as the I-205 Transitway.[5]:82 In 1986, transit plans developed by Metro, the Portland metropolitan area's regional government, began calling for a light rail extension to Portland International Airport,[6][7] which was then being served by TriMet buses,[8] with construction projected to begin around 2010.[1] Metro's plans envisioned a line running from the airport to Clackamas County using the I-205 Transitway and connecting with the existing light rail line of the Metropolitan Area Express (MAX) at Gateway/Northeast 99th Avenue Transit Center.[9][10] Environmental studies conducted in the early 1990s caused Metro planners to abandon I-205 in favor of a route between Hazel Dell in Washington and Clackamas Town Center via downtown Portland,[11] which TriMet ultimately adopted and called the "South/North Corridor".[5]:80

Throughout the 1990s, Portland International Airport expanded rapidly as passenger traffic increased from 6 million passengers in 1990 to 14 million passengers in 2000.[1][12] To accommodate this growth, the Port of Portland embarked on a 20-year, $300 million phased expansion of the airport in November 1991 that expanded the main passenger terminal, rebuilt an existing concourse, and added a fifth concourse.[13][14] Expecting future light rail service, the expansion plans reserved space for a station near the southern end of the terminal's arrivals hall and baggage claim area.[15][16] In 1994, parking lots operating at 90 percent capacity and heavy vehicular traffic near the terminal entrances revealed that the Port's growth projections had been insufficient. As a result, the Port asked TriMet to accelerate its plans to introduce light rail service to the airport.[17][18]

TriMet had wanted to construct the South/North line before it would consider extending MAX service to the airport,[17][19] but the agency failed to secure funding and was forced to cancel the project.[20] In 1996, engineering firm Bechtel, seeking to acquire property near the airport, initiated discussions with the Port regarding the feasibility of an airport light rail line and assigned a former federal transit official employee to help develop a plan.[5]:82 The Port expressed its support of this unsolicited proposal in January 1997.[18] After long deliberations, agreements were made between Bechtel, the Port, TriMet, and local governments and agencies in October 1998.[21][22] A part of the agreements authorized Bechtel to design and build a 5.5-mile-long (8.9 km) light rail extension to the airport and to fund a portion of the project in exchange for development rights to the 120-acre (48.6 ha) Portland International Center, which was situated east of the airport. Bechtel later developed this commercially zoned property and renamed it Cascade Station.[23] A preliminary engineering study commenced in December 1997.[24] The project was accelerated with the establishment of a public–private partnership, which eliminated the need for Federal Transit Administration (FTA) approval due to a lack of FTA funding.[5]:82[25] The following year, the Associated Builders and Contractors filed a petition in Multnomah County circuit court claiming that the contract awarded to Bechtel may have violated Oregon procurement laws.[26] A judge ruled in favor of TriMet, declaring that the contract was awarded fairly.[27]

Funding and construction[edit]

a Red Line train exiting a tunnel
The south portal of the tunnel that was built in the late 1970s as part of a future transitway and was first brought into use by the Red Line

In July 1998, TriMet projected the Airport MAX extension to cost $125 million (equivalent to $187 million in 2019 dollars). Additional costs to purchase train sets and build related infrastructure raised this total to $182.7 million (equivalent to $273 million in 2019 dollars).[28] Under U.S. federal regulations, the Port of Portland was able to fund only the portion of rail located within its property with approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).[22] To ensure funding, the Port proposed dividing the project's financing into three parts, which the involved parties agreed to. The Port became responsible for the 1.2-mile (1.9 km) segment within airport property. The next 1.4 miles (2.3 km) of track, which ran through Cascade Station, went to private funding. TriMet, Metro, and the City of Portland covered the final 2.9 miles (4.7 km) along I-205.[29]

The Port contributed $28.3 million for construction and $20 million for terminal and road improvements; this was drawn from a $3 ticket fee paid by travelers.[1][28] Delta Airlines, Reno Air, and United Airlines opposed the use of ticket fees, contending that the extension would only serve a small number of airline passengers.[30] The FAA approved the funding in May 1999.[31] Cascade Station Development, a private consortium of Bechtel and real estate developer Trammell Crow, provided $28.2 million for the project and $13.1 million for the construction of an interchange over I-205 and Airport Way.[32] TriMet released $27.5 million for construction, which was funded by $30 million in bonds,[1][28] and procured six new rail cars for $6 million each.[32][33] Metro allocated $18 million from a regional transportation fund,[1][28] while $23 million came from tax increment bonds issued by the City of Portland.[1][5]:82

refer to caption
A curved bridge over the I-205 exit ramps near Gateway Transit Center built as part of the extension

David Evans and Associates served as the project's prime engineer and lead designer.[34] Much of the Airport MAX used public right-of-way owned either by the Oregon Department of Transportation, the Port, or TriMet. This avoided displacing any property owners and contributed to the line's rapid completion. Overall, the extension limited its impact to 20 eliminated parking spaces at Gateway Transit Center and several more along Airport Way.[25][32] Bechtel began construction in June 1999 on a segment next to I-205 near the Columbia Slough.[32] Bridgework over the freeway commenced the following December.[35] To minimize lane closures, workers used a cast-in-place concrete pouring method to extend the bridges' spans in 16-foot (4.9 m) increments.[36] Work progressed quickly along the freeway segment due to the already-built I-205 Transitway, which accommodated a tunnel from Gateway Transit Center to the freeway median in anticipation of a busway that never materialized.[36]

Track installation, which Bechtel contracted to Stacy and Witbeck, started in December 1999.[37] To meet the project's deadline, workers placed 3,200 feet (975.4 m) of rail per day; tracks from Gateway Transit Center to the bridge over southbound I-205 were laid by July 2000.[38] Hoffman Construction, the company selected by the Port to expand the airport terminal several years prior, built the $8.4 million Portland International Airport station.[37] Local architecture firm Zimmer Gunsul Frasca (ZGF) designed the station's glass-roofed shelter to complement the airport terminal's then newly built drop-off canopy, which ZGF also designed.[39][40] Bechtel began end-to-end testing of the power, trains, and signals in March 2001. TriMet took over the project that July to continue system testing and verify scheduling.[37]

Opening and extension to Beaverton[edit]

In 2000, TriMet named the new MAX service to the airport the "Red Line" to differentiate it from the established service between Hillsboro and Gresham, which it renamed the "Blue Line".[41][42]:83 The Airport MAX extension opened on September 10, 2001.[43][44] Celebrations scheduled for September 15–16 were canceled in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks,[8][45] with the airport itself being closed for three days due to the ensuing nationwide ground stop.[46] Upon opening, the Red Line terminated at the Library and Galleria stations in downtown Portland, where its trains turned around at the 11th Avenue loop tracks.[47] It replaced bus route 12–Sandy Boulevard as TriMet's only service to and from the airport.[8][48] C-Tran moved its bus service from Vancouver, Washington from its connection at Gateway Transit Center to Parkrose/Sumner Transit Center.[8] Although tested during trial runs,[37] TriMet opted to omit luggage racks from Red Line trains to maximize rider capacity.[49] By November 2001, ridership averaged 2,300 riders and peaked at 3,800 riders a day before Thanksgiving holiday weekend. At that point, service had been using single light rail cars,[50] but the influx of riders prompted TriMet to temporarily deploy two-car consists, which it had not planned to do until 2006.[51]

refer to caption
An airport-bound train traversing an overpass above I-205

On September 1, 2003, TriMet extended Red Line service farther west using the existing Westside MAX tracks to Beaverton Transit Center. This was done in an effort to increase capacity between Gateway Transit Center and Beaverton, and to provide a one-seat ride to the airport for westside riders.[52] Regular use of two-car trains on the line began in September 2005, when overcrowding prompted TriMet to change most Yellow Line service from two-car consists to single cars in order to convert the Red Line to two-car trains.[53] On March 2, 2008, three trips in each direction during the morning and evening rush hours began operating between the Hatfield Government Center and Portland International Airport stations to provide further additional capacity on the Blue Line amid growing ridership.[54] On September 2, 2018, TriMet reintroduced bus service to the airport with the 272–PDX Night Bus route, which runs in the late night and early morning hours when the Red Line is not operating.[55][56] The bus route was indefinitely suspended on April 5, 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.[57]

Future plans[edit]

refer to caption
The single-track segment seen along I-205 in 2018

In October 2017, TriMet announced plans to extend the Red Line from Beaverton Transit Center to Fair Complex/Hillsboro Airport station in Hillsboro.[58] The $206 million "Better Red" project will create a one-seat option from Portland International Airport to ten existing stations westbound from Beaverton Transit Center and establish a transit link between the Portland and Hillsboro airports. The ten stations are: Beaverton Central, Millikan Way, Beaverton Creek, Merlo Road/Southwest 158th Avenue, Elmonica/Southwest 170th Avenue, Willow Creek/Southwest 185th Avenue Transit Center, Quatama, Orenco, Hawthorn Farm, and Fair Complex/Hillsboro Airport.[59][60] Additionally, TriMet plans to add a second track to existing single-track segments between the Gateway and Parkrose/Sumner transit centers, and between the Mount Hood Avenue and Portland International Airport stations.[59] To accommodate new riders, TriMet will purchase six new light rail vehicles and upgrade the Ruby Junction maintenance facility in Gresham.[61]

Preliminary design work began in February 2018.[62] The following month, the Hillsboro City Council authorized funds to study the effects of the extension on the existing MAX at-grade crossing at Southwest 185th Avenue. This may pave the way for grade separation in the future.[63] TriMet adopted a locally preferred alternative in April 2019, allowing the agency to submit the plan to the FTA and request funding.[64] On May 29, 2020, the FTA announced $99.99 million in funding for the project through the Capital Investment Grants program.[65][66] Final design is expected to be completed in 2021.[67] Construction is targeted to begin that same year and finish by 2024.[60]

Portland International Airport station temporarily closed from March 29 to August 1, 2020, to make way for demolition and construction work as part of the airport's planned expansion of Concourse B.[68] Initially targeted to reopen between May 30 and August 30,[69] TriMet updated the schedule as a result of flight cancellations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The station closed for a second time on August 30 and will remain closed until January 2, 2021.[70] During the closure, shuttle buses will carry riders from Mount Hood Avenue station to the passenger terminal. TriMet is utilizing the closures to prepare for track improvements that will be part of the Better Red project.[68]


The Red Line serves the Airport MAX extension, which is 5.5 miles (8.9 km) long.[a] This extension begins just south of Gateway Transit Center where it branches from the Eastside MAX segment, makes a 180-degree loop, and heads north along the east side of Interstate 205.[1] Near Rocky Butte, it enters a tunnel beneath the northbound lanes of the freeway and emerges along the median.[32] Just south of the Columbia Slough, the line bridges over southbound I-205 towards Cascade Station and proceeds northwest along the south side of Northeast Cascade Parkway.[71] It follows this road then crosses it just before Mount Hood Avenue station.[72] The line proceeds northwest along the south side of Northeast Airport Way until it reaches its terminus at Portland International Airport station.[73] Beyond the Airport MAX, Red Line service travels along parts of the Westside and Eastside MAX segments, running alongside the Blue Line from Beaverton Transit Center to Gateway Transit Center and the Green Line from Rose Quarter Transit Center to Gateway Transit Center.[74]

Although much of the Red Line runs along a double-track railway, two segments of the Airport MAX extension are single-tracked. The first segment starts near Gateway Transit Center and ends just north of Northeast Halsey Street.[75][76] The other segment runs from south of the Northeast Airport Way and Northeast Airport Way Frontage Road intersection to just before the airport terminus.[77][78] There are plans to add a second track to both segments by 2024 as part of the Better Red project.[59][61]

A geographic map of the MAX Red Line (in red) and its future extension (in green) relative to the rest of the network (in black) with icons marking the line's termini. The official system schematic can be viewed on the TriMet website.


The side and island light rail platforms of Beaverton Transit Center; they are adorned with leafless trees and the left most platform consists of a shelter
Beaverton Transit Center, the Red Line's western terminus
The side platforms of Mt. Hood Avenue station; the platforms consists of blue lamps and the left one contains a shelter
Mount Hood Avenue station, one of two stations serving Cascade Station
The platform of Portland International Airport station; a two-car train awaits passengers to board with it doors open
Portland International Airport station, the Red Line's eastern terminus

The Airport MAX extension, which the Red Line serves exclusively, consists of four stations: Parkrose/Sumner Transit Center, Cascades, Mount Hood Avenue, and Portland International Airport.[1] Red Line trains serve 26 stations total, of which 14, from Beaverton Transit Center to Old Town/Chinatown, are shared with the Blue Line. Eight more stations, between Rose Quarter Transit Center and Gateway Transit Center, are shared with both the Blue Line and the Green Line. Transfers to the Green (beyond the shared Eastside MAX alignment), Orange, and Yellow lines via the Pioneer Courthouse and Pioneer Place stations are available by detraining at the Pioneer Square stations. An additional transfer to the Yellow Line via Interstate/Rose Quarter station can be made at Rose Quarter Transit Center.[2] The Red Line also provides connections to local and intercity bus services at various stops across the line, the Portland Streetcar at four stops in and near downtown Portland,[79] and WES Commuter Rail at Beaverton Transit Center.[80]

On March 1, 2020, TriMet closed three stations served by the Red and Blue lines in an effort to speed up travel times in downtown Portland. The Mall stations were permanently closed while Kings Hill/Southwest Salmon Street station will remain closed for a trial period ending March 1, 2021.[3]

Icon Purpose
terminus Terminus
Eastbound travel only
Westbound travel only
List of MAX Red Line stations
Station Location Commenced Line transfers[2] Other connections and notes[2][81][b]
Beaverton Transit Centerterminus Beaverton September 1, 2003 Mainline rail interchange WES Commuter Rail
Sunset Transit Center Intercity bus service POINT, TCTD
Washington Park Portland Serves Oregon Zoo, Portland Children's Museum, World Forestry Center
Goose Hollow/Southwest Jefferson Street
Kings Hill/Southwest Salmon Street Closed until March 1, 2021[3]
Providence Park Serves Providence Park
Library/Southwest 9th Avenue September 10, 2001 Tram interchange Portland Streetcar
Serves Central Library
Galleria/Southwest 10th Avenue
Pioneer Square South Bus interchange Portland Transit Mall
Serves Pioneer Courthouse, Pioneer Courthouse Square
Pioneer Square North
Yamhill District
Morrison/Southwest 3rd Avenue
Oak Street/Southwest 1st Avenue
Skidmore Fountain
Old Town/Chinatown
Rose Quarter Transit Center Intercity bus service C-Tran
Serves Rose Quarter
Convention Center Tram interchange Portland Streetcar
Serves Oregon Convention Center
Northeast 7th Avenue Tram interchange Portland Streetcar
Lloyd Center/Northeast 11th Avenue
Hollywood/Northeast 42nd Avenue Transit Center
Northeast 60th Avenue
Northeast 82nd Avenue
Gateway/Northeast 99th Avenue Transit Center Intercity bus service Columbia Area Transit[82]
Parkrose/Sumner Transit Center Intercity bus service C-Tran
Mount Hood Avenue
Portland International Airportterminus Intercity bus service C-Tran
Serves Portland International Airport


TriMet designates the Red Line as a "Frequent Service" route; its trains operate for approximately 22 hours per day with headways ranging from 30 minutes during the early mornings and late evenings to as frequently as 15 minutes for most of the day.[83] Each day, the first train begins service at approximately 3:30 am going eastbound from Beaverton Transit Center to Portland International Airport station. Travel between the termini takes approximately 65 minutes and the first westbound service departs Portland International Airport station at approximately 4:55 am. In the evenings, select westbound trains travel beyond the line's terminus at Beaverton Transit Center to Hatfield Government Center station in Hillsboro; these trains operate as through services of the Blue Line upon arriving at Gateway/Northeast 99th Avenue Transit Center. The Red Line's last three trips turn into eastbound Blue Line trains at Gateway Transit Center and terminate at Ruby Junction/East 197th Avenue station. The last westbound service departs from Portland International Airport station at approximately 12:30 am and the last Red Line service, which travels eastbound, departs from Portland International Airport station at approximately 1:40 am.[84]


The Red Line is the second-busiest service on the MAX network, averaging 22,530 riders on weekdays in September 2019.[4] This was slightly down from 22,770 for the same month in 2018.[85] It averaged 2,800 daily riders at the airport in September 2002, ahead of TriMet's first-year projections of 2,300.[86] The line's extension to Beaverton Transit Center in 2003 increased weekday ridership by 49 percent along the westside corridor and six percent systemwide.[87] IKEA's opening in July 2007 helped to attract more riders to Cascade Station, which had been considered a failed planned development amid the economic recession that followed the September 11 attacks.[88] In 2008, Cascades station recorded an eight-fold increase in traffic, from 250 passengers per week to 2,000;[89] this number increased to 6,000 by 2010.[90] The Red Line's yearly ridership peaked at just over nine million passengers in 2009;[91] it has continued to fall as part of a system-wide decline attributed to crime and rising housing costs in the Portland area.[92][93] From 8.2 million boardings in 2012, 7.4 million boardings were recorded in 2015.[94][1]

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b TriMet publications only provide the total length of the Airport MAX extension, i.e., the 5.5-mile (8.9 km) section that was newly built. The total length of Red Line service, which includes segments of the Eastside MAX and the Westside MAX, is undetermined.[1]
  2. ^ This list of service connections excludes TriMet bus connections. For a complete list that includes all transfers, see: List of MAX Light Rail stations.


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