Tilikum Crossing

Portland's newest bridge uses dramatic design to connect a forward-thinking urban transit system.

tilikum-crossing-microwavedboyTilikum Crossing is Portland's first new bridge in 40 years.
Microwavedboy via Flickr

On Sept. 12, 2015, Bridgetown officially welcomed its latest addition: Tilikum Crossing. The bridge links the city’s South Waterfront, home to an Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) campus and the Portland Aerial Tram, to the burgeoning Central Eastside, known for visitor favorites like the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) and Oregon Rail Heritage Center, plus some of the city’s best dining and nightlife.

Aside from its striking design, this cable-stayed bridge spanning the Willamette River has the distinction of being the only bridge in the country dedicated to light rail, buses, bicycles and pedestrians — without automobile traffic. MAX light rail trains run along the new 7.3-mile (11.7 km) Orange Line to the southeast suburb of Milwaukie, and the Portland Streetcar completed its CL (Central Loop) Line connecting the major city-center neighborhoods.

With a pair of wide paths, the span offers pedestrians and cyclists ample room to slow down and appreciate its carefully considered details: Angles formed by the cables mirror the outline of Mount Hood, which rises in the background. (The angle is repeated elsewhere, including atop the tower pylons.) “Tilikum” means “people” in a local Native American language, hence the nickname “Bridge of the People.” There are nods to nature, too, with osprey nesting poles at either end and a “sonic dish” art installation on the east bank that amplifies the sounds of the river.

Even from afar the bridge stands out. LEDs light up the entire bridge, changing color and pattern based on how fast, deep and cold the river is flowing, making the crossing a true people-pleaser from any angle.

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