Portland’s landscape is teeming with bridges — connecting the east and west parts of the Oregon city over the expansive Willamette River, which makes it no surprise that the northwestern city would support building another structure that reaches an up-and-coming area in an industrial neighborhood.
But with more transportation options comes more traffic, which is partly why TriMet, Portland’s local transporation agency, decided to design the Tilikum Crossing without room for cars. Instead, the bridge will cater to buses, light rail trains and street cars, with bike and pedestrian paths flanking it, making it the first multi-modal design of its kind, Fast Company reports.
The new 1,700 foot-long construct will be the nation’s longest carless bridge, and TriMet officials contend it’s a model that can serve elsewhere.

“We need to think multi-modal,” says Dave Unsworth, TriMet’s director of project development and permitting. “Streetcars for central city circulation, buses to connect to neighborhoods, and light rail for regional destinations …and bike and pedestrian connections to the nearby trails.”

Unsworth argues including cars would have been more costly, due to the need to expand the bridge in size to accommodate two lanes of traffic for each direction, plus reducing potential redevelopment on land nearby.

Thanks to a comprehensive public transit system, Unsworth also believes adding a car-centric bridge is unnecessary.

“With so much transit service on both sides of the river — light rail, streetcar, buses, and the Aerial Tram on the west side of the bridge — adding through traffic would have been unsafe and wasn’t necessary given the quality transit access,” he says.

The 7.3-mile stretch of light rail will provide access to a new area of housing as well as a new university campus branch, connecting north Clackamas County, Milwaukie and inner South East Portland to the downtown area and regional MAX System, according to TriMet.

The massive structure will feature lights that illuminate the cables and piers, mimicking actual water flow in the Willamette River below.

And while Portland has no plans to eliminate car transport altogether, city officials are encouraging other urban communities to consider alternative modes.

“Not everyone can use transit, but we need to continue to make it more convenient by doing a great job of connecting to where people want and need to go,” Unsworth adds. 

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