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April 17, 2014

Portland's car-free bridge opens next year

Image courtesy of TriMet [enlarge]

A car-free bridge that's nearly ready to span the Willamette River just south of downtown Portland will be named Tilikum Crossing.

The Associated Press reports that the name is a Chinook word that means people, tribe and relatives.

Historian Chet Orloff, who chaired the bridge-naming committee, said Tilikum has conveyed the meaning of community for centuries, and it was chosen because it had the “most promise to connect the people of our region today with the long past of people who have been here on both banks of the river for thousands of years.”

The $135 million bridge is scheduled to open next year. It will be Portland's 12th across the river, and the first to be built since 1973.

Tilikum Crossing is unique because it will carry light rail, streetcars, buses, bikes and pedestrians, but be off-limits to the automobile. Emergency responders can use the bridge when necessary.

The bridge will have two towers with two in-water piers and two landside piers. Paths at either end will connect with future light rail stations. Future connections to greenways on each riverbank are also envisioned.

TriMet is the owner and HNTB is TriMet's bridge engineer. Kiewit Infrastructure West is design-build contractor and T.Y. LIN International is the design-build engineer of record.

The naming process has been a hot topic in Portland because the regional mass transit agency invited citizens to submit suggestions. Almost 10,000 recommendations were submitted.

David Lewis, a historian for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde who was on the naming committee, said it's important for the tribes to “re-establish our presence here” after being removed to the Grand Ronde Reservation in 1856.

“I didn't really do much selling,” he said of his discussions with others on the committee. “I just kept on pushing this issue that we were removed from this place, and a lot of our place names were changed. And that we wanted to return some of those names back to our lands.”

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