Friday, April 9, 2010
Green line brings peoples views back into the city.
Green light for TriMet's MAX Green Line
By Joe Brugger, The Oregonian
June 30, 2009, 8:12PM
As a MAX train glided through a brick-lined section of downtown Portland, someone in the VIP crowd of mayors and state and federal lawmakers onboard called out: "Where are we?"
The answer: Union Station, home of Amtrak and nearby Greyhound, a place where no MAX has gone before.
Such small surprises were the hallmark of the first trip aboard the MAX Green Line, the $575.7 million light-rail extension that will open to the public Sept. 12.
Dignitaries from U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley and U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer and David Wu to city council members and county commissioners from across the region crowded onto a new-generation MAX train for the line's first end-to-end ride from Portland State University to Clackamas Town Center.
The route forms an upside down U, traveling from downtown along Interstate 84 to the Gateway Transit Center before turning south to the mall, bringing MAX service to Clackamas County.
A few things became apparent during Tuesday's back-and-forth trip:
Even after weeks of test trains zipping along, seeing MAX trains on the downtown transit mall still feels weird. While bus riders are used to quick stops and starts, the trains take a while to halt. Pedestrians need to be wary and confused motorists now driving on the tracks could face more than a ticket come September.
For folks who live, work or pass through downtown, little changed when the airport's Red Line opened in 2001 and North Portland's Yellow Line started in 2004. The new trains still went mainly east-west along Morrison and Yamhill streets. But Green Line riders will find themselves passing Chinatown and Union Station before a sharp right turn to the Steel Bridge -- thus the "Where are we?" moments. The Yellow Line will take the same north-south route starting in late August.
Close-in neighborhoods could be big winners. Hollywood, Rose City Park and Montavilla MAX riders along Interstate 84 will be able to choose among Blue, Red or Green Line trains to and from downtown Portland and that means more frequent service.
There's no sign when you reach Clackamas County, a center of retail and housing growth. But you know you've arrived when you see the Home Depot at Southeast Johnson Creek Boulevard -- and feel your stomach churn when you realize it's about two stories below as the MAX whooshes by on an overpass.
The crowded hills of Happy Valley rise to the left. Then, almost with a bang, the massive yellowish sign for the Century Clackamas Town Center movie theater looms into view, a beacon of suburbia that says you've reached the end of the line.
The first MAX Green Line round trip pauses Tuesday as a TriMet worker clears leaves from a switch near Portland State University. Federal, state and local officials filled the train and cheered the service at a reception at Clackamas Town Center.
"People have a tendency to believe that Clackamas County is a rural county," said Bob Williams, who represents the area on the TriMet board. "They don't see all the growth."
Williams recalls walking the route when he first joined the TriMet board 10 years ago, hoping he'd see a train there one day.
Rick Gustafson, a planner and transit deal-maker, said he remembers when Multnomah County and the Oregon Department of Transportation decided in the 1970s to preserve a corridor for mass transit along the planned Interstate 205. That effort made way for the Green Line a generation later.
Even then, they thought light rail could come to Clackamas County.