The July morning sun glinted off the narrow rails spliced into the concrete roadbed on Southwest Lincoln Street between First Avenue and Naito Parkway as a small herd of Metro area officials gathered to congratulate themselves for making it to the halfway mark in construction of the Portland to Milwaukie Light Rail extension.
TriMet boss Neil McFarlane announced September 12, 2015 as the grand opening day for the line that will stretch from Portland State in downtown Portland to the new OHSU campus on the south waterfront; across the Willamette River on a “first-of-its-kind” intermodal bridge that will allow bus, light rail, bicycle and pedestrian traffic while be closed to private vehicles. The line will then turn south and parallel Highway 99E into Clackamas County to its terminus in Milwaukie.
State Representative Carolyn Tomei noted that finding the money for the project began when now U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley was in the state legislature and convinced lawmakers to use lottery funds as seed money. She says that vision led to a project that has created thousands of jobs.
Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette added that by reducing vehicle traffic the project will also help reduce the areas carbon footprint.
Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick took time to note that in one southern city the development of mass transportation contributed to helping commuters lose an average of six pounds per person.
One of the more unique numbers associated with the project – in addition to all the steel and concrete used – is that the project required uprooting 850 trees which replaced with 3.325 trees. It’s the TriMet forest.