Portland’s Tilikum Crossing, a Bridge for the 21st Century

Photo: Portland's Tilikum Bridge will serve only sustainable transportation, in contrast to the Columbia River Crossing. Photo: Project website

Portland’s Tilikum Crossing will serve only spatially efficient modes, in contrast to the car-centric Columbia River Crossing. Image: Trimet

Tilikum Crossing, a new bridge across the Willamette River in Portland, is everything the hated Columbia River Crossing was not. While the CRC would have devoted billions to expanding car lanes and new highway interchanges, the Tilikum will serve only transit, biking, and walking.

Matthew Nelson at Electric Urbanism says the fact that one bridge — the CRC — was rejected and this other bridge is moving forward says a lot about evolving ideas about transportation in the United States, and how Portland has positioned itself as a leader: 

One one hand, the CRC is representative of business as usual in the United States — cars and trucks are the only modes that count, and their movement must be optimized at the expense of every other form of mobility. On the other hand, the Tilikum is representative of Oregon’s commitment to sustainable transportation policy by putting transit riders first (this priority led a local conservative radio host to label the bridge “the Auto-ban”). While it is being constructed to carry trains to Milwaukie on TriMet’s newest MAX light rail line, it will also likely someday serve a future high capacity transit line down the Powell-Division Corridor as well as buses that currently crawl across nearby auto-clogged bridges and the Streetcar’s new Central Loop.

In this “tale of two crossings,” the rejection of the CRC shows that there is little appetite in the Metro region for the car-centric mega-projects reminiscent of the 20th Century, while the Tilikum will stand as a bold, iconic testament to Portland’s values and to the city’s legacy of transportation innovation.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Stop and Move has a reminder that the Nashville Amp isn’t the only BRT project under threat right now — Tea Party forces in Fresno have basically strangled the city’s proposed BRT routes. Better Institutions argues that limiting density constrains people’s choices about where to live. And Better Cities & Towns! offers 10 compelling reasons why the “American dream” is in need of revision.