Portland is the City of Bridges – nicknamed Bridgetown – and the newest bridge to connect the East and West sides of the Willamette River has the distinction of being the first major bridge in the United States to provide access to all types of transportation other than private vehicles. TriMet’s newest MAX Light Rail train, the Orange Line, crosses the bridge, as does the Portland Streetcar, several TriMet bus lines, pedestrians, bicyclists and emergency vehicles.
Tilikum Crossing was named after a Chinook word that means “people” during a city-wide contest sponsored by TriMet when the bridge opened on September 12, 2015 (construction began in 2011). So, it is the bridge of the people. In a city that already included eleven bridges, it was hard for many to imagine a new addition that would be distinguished in terms of appearance and function, but Tilikum Crossing lives up to the hype in both regards. 180-foot stays line the towers; LED lights illuminate the spires at night, changing with the speed, height and temperature of the river! If you are visiting Portland, please don’t miss your chance to view this incredible sight. If you are at all interested in engineering or city planning, the thrill will be doubled.
There is plenty to see and do on both sides of the bridge. On the West Side in Portland’s lovely South Waterfront you can stop at Starbucks for a caffeinated beverage, or at Elephant’s Deli for some delicious hot and cold lunch items. Watching the Portland Spirit River Cruise swoosh by the bridge is pretty exciting. The Aerial Tram is nearby, which is a wonderful way to view Portland up high!
On the East side, you can visit Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) and the Oregon Rail Heritage Center. The A/B Loop of the Streetcar will continue along the Eastside of the river, with easy access to great destinations like Hawthorne Boulevard and the Lloyd Center Mall, or a speedy trip back across the river to the Pearl District.
From Tilikum Crossing the Orange Line MAX will continue to Milwaukie, a lovely suburb of Portland. Even just the trip to the end of the line on the Orange Line is filled with natural beauty. Also, heading back across Tilikum Crossing to the West side, the MAX will continue to downtown Portland, and then – magically! – the Orange Line will turn into the Yellow Line and continue to North Portland to stops like Delta Park/Vanport and the Expo Center. In days past, travelling from the outer East to North Portland has been a multi-transfer trip, so it’s a pretty fantastic update to the transit system.
A trip across Tilikum Crossing is a fascinating part of visiting Portland. One caveat – bicyclists are commuting at a speedy pace, and there are several blind spots, so if you are walking across the bridge, watch out for them (they are considerate and aware, just fast!). One fun secret: All Classical Portland Radio, which has an office on the East side of Tilikum Crossing, offers a real-time glimpse of traffic on their web site “Tili-cam” (http://www.allclassical.org/tili-cam). If you have the time and interest, you can watch your family and friends cross the bridge as the event is happening. It’s also a great way to see the beautiful lights on the bridge if you don’t have time to actually make it down. Have fun!
(Note: the $5.00 cost is the price of an all-day TriMet transit pass, which can be used for any MAX, Streetcar or bus line until end of day. Walking or biking across Tilikum Crossing is FREE!)