A preview ride on TriMet’s new Orange Line

A preview ride on TriMet’s new Orange Line

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TriMet GM Neil McFarlane and Washington
Secretary of Transportation Lynn
Peterson.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

TriMet’s new Orange Line (a.k.a. the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project) doesn’t officially open until September 12th, but the agency has been busy for weeks now offering preview rides for various organizations and interested parties.

Speaking of parties, last night I attended an event hosted by the Portland chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar (a group that promotes professional advancement for women in the transportation industry). We met in the lobby of CH2M Hill, the massive consulting and engineering firm conveniently located just steps from the MAX line on Southwest Lincoln and 4th Avenue.

I snacked on light appetizers and chatted with a few folks before TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane grabbed the crowd’s attention and shared a few words. He mostly thanked a bunch of people (many of whom were in the room) who helped deliver the $1.5 billion project. He also touted a long list of stats that spoke to the project’s economic impact. “This project happened just when Oregon needed it most,” McFarlane said, “We created 14,000 jobs at a time when the state was economically depressed.”

At the end of his speech, one of McFarlane’s old colleagues on the project, Lynn Peterson addressed the crowd. Peterson is currently the Secretary of Transportation for the State of Washington. But when the politics of the Orange Line were hot and heavy, she was a Clackamas County Commissioner who weathered a brutal storm from her anti light-rail constituency. Peterson offered a toast to McFarlane to honor his leadership and dedication to the project. It was a touching moment.

After the speeches and hob-nobbing, it was finally time to hop on board and ride the Orange.

From Lincoln and 4th we headed down into South Waterfront and up onto the new Tilikum Bridge. As we glided over SW Harbor Drive on the new viaduct, I wish we’d built a bikeway on this same structure. It would have been such an easy and direct connection for bicycle riders to the Tilikum instead of the disjointed bikeway route we ended up with. (On that note, part of me is frustrated we didn’t build a parallel protected bikeway alongside the entire line, but I digress).

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On the viaduct – which carries only MAX light rail.

Heading further into southeast, it was cool to see the new paths and bikeways that have been built. I also saw the fantastic new bike-themed mural at SE Division and 9th. I will go back soon for a closer look.

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Further south on the route I spotted two new path connections I hadn’t seen before. TriMet has built a new paved path that connects the Johnson Creek Blvd park-and-ride station to the Springwater Corridor. (That station also has a big new bike parking cage that isn’t quite done yet.)

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And south of Milwaukie, there’s a relatively large new section of paved path that gives people a much better connection to the Trolley Trail.

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In total, TriMet spent $65 million of this project’s budget to improve access for biking and walking. For perspective, that’s more than the City of Portland spent on its entire, 300-mile bikeway network through 2008.

For that reason alone, the Orange Line is a Big Deal. McFarlane has reason to be smiling.

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— Read all our past coverage of the Portland Milwaukie light rail project.


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