Tilikum Crossing: More Punishment for Motorists

CascadeNewLogoBy John A. Charles, Jr.

The new bridge over the Willamette River, TriMet’s Tilikum Crossing, opened for business on September 12. With beautiful weather and parties at every stop of the Orange MAX line, a good time was had by the thousands of sightseers.

Unfortunately, now that we’ve returned to gray skies and normal weekday travel, it’s clear that the bridge created both winners and losers. The big winners are light rail passengers and bicyclists. The scenic bikeway has already proven immensely popular with local cyclists, who are crossing at a rate 10 times higher than the rate previously observed on the nearby Ross Island Bridge.

The big losers are motorists. The Tilikum Crossing is closed to autos and trucks. In addition, the new traffic signal at the west end of the bridge creates a major bottleneck on SW Moody Avenue, the busiest road within the district.

At both morning and afternoon peak-periods, Moody Avenue traffic is shut down 60% of the time in order to accommodate light rail, the streetcar, and buses leaving or entering the bridge. This gums up all north-south travel, including most of the same bike riders cruising over from east Portland, who must cross Moody Avenue as they exit the bridge.

Moody Avenue motorists have no choice but to wait through red lights that sometime exceed three minutes; but pedestrians and cyclists are rebelling by the hundreds. After losing patience, they simply cross the rail tracks illegally.

In most normal cities, a new bridge makes everyone better off. But in Portland, a bridge simply becomes one more weapon in the political war on mobility.

John A. Charles, Jr. is President and CEO at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

  • PMS (Postal Moody Situation)

    Maybe a N-S tunnel passage like was used to relieve E-W traffic on SE Powell @ 12th.
    Perhaps, TriMet;s increased business tax be directed toward something rational.

  • Bob Clark

    Tilikum is mostly for show, and a monument to bad governance. The latter is not just me but a reflection of the recent City Club of Portland report on Portland’s street repair backlog. In this report, the City Club states there should be a moratorium on such projects as these until Portland’s roads are fixed; and furthermore, such projects as Tilikum should be fully user-fee funded/financed. Tilikum would hardly be conceivable if it were required to be fully (even mostly) user-fee funded/financed.

    Roads are what moves goods and workers, the predominant conveyance of economic commerce. Tilikum puts a drag on this, largely unrecognized by those enamored by its glitz. The Orange line will mostly take folks off a bus, and a fairly quick bus at that (down McGlouthlin..spelling). Bicycling will not materially increase either, except for some sunny day bike recreation.

    Taxpayers could more easily afford rebuilding schools and/or public programs targeted at encouraging and nudging the homeless into more of a life of individual self sufficiency if not for diverting scarce public dollars to such projects of indebtness.

    The unscrupulous politician (nearly an oxymoron) uses the Kool Aide of shiny mega projects such as Tilikum to paralyze the brains of his/her citizenry, so as to numb their awareness of scarcity and trade offs.

  • palerider

    on my bike i can get through almost anything as I don’t really need to pay attention to traffic signals and such…what are they going to do??

  • thevillageidiot

    This was well planned and executed to force the use of such public transportation. much the same as the decisions not to widen 217, any improvements to I5, not counting the new bridge to no where, no other bypass to the downtown area etc. This is a very well considered plan and is going accordingly. gathers up more taxes and revenues from the rest of the state. and as it is for all boondoggles this one is successful in confiscating wealth (taxes to pay for it) while creating nothing.

  • Ron Swaren

    We need to get behind the Western Arterial Highway. (Please, do not start any West Side Bypass discussions—far too expensive). I keep visiting the Portland AND SW Washington agencies—because this route would actually benefit all: It unties the Gordian Knot of I-5 congestion. It saves freight haulers from costly delays. It makes it shorter for bus riders, because this would connect several highways and transit routes. It makes short negotiable segments for cyclists between at least five major areas. It doesn’t condemn–much–land. It can be built at a reasonable cost IF we utilize standard designs and mass production techniques. Also metal bridges nowadays can be more seismically resilient and low maintenance at the same time. Please see my older Catalyst articles, and I will try to get a new one up:https://oregoncatalyst.com/24175-alternative-crc-bridge.html and also https://oregoncatalyst.com/7129-third-bridge-over-the-columbia-is-better-alternative-than-crc.html or from AL Margulies blog:https://rantingsofatrimetbusdriver.blogspot.com/2014/08/the-western-arterial-makes-sense.html

  • Evan Manvel

    Portlanders who cannot drive: 30+%
    Portlanders who cannot walk: ~2%
    Willamette bridges (other than the BNSF freight bridge) open to cars: 10 of 11.
    Willamette bridges closed to cars: 1 of 11
    Willamette bridges closed to walking/biking, legally: 2 of 11 (Fremont, Marquam)
    Willamette bridges with unsafe walking/biking: 5 of 11 (St. Johns, Fremont, Ross Island, Marquam, Sellwood)
    Willamette bridges with safe walking/biking: 6 of 11 (Broadway, Steel, Burnside, Morrison, Hawthorne, Tillkum) *New Sellwood
    Number of walkers/bikers/transit riders who aren’t in cars clogging up traffic: 100%

    • redbean

      Buses do clog up traffic, depending on the road (i.e. whether there is a dedicated lane for the bus to pull off the road and out of traffic when letting riders out). Bikers also clog up traffic when they don’t follow the rules of the road or when they are on streets without well-defined bike lanes.

      The Sellwood, Ross Island, Marquam and Hawthorne bridges are also unsafe for driving. Just sayin.’

    • Ron Swaren

      Bikers should be on their own separated path, but it takes construction knowledge to do this right, which most politicos don;t have. And yes they do clog up traffic in a number of ways—mainly because driers have to assume a defensive driving mode around them. If drivers were to assert their rights there would be a lot more injured cyclists. Cyclists need to come out with a Defensive Cycling agenda, similar to the Defensive Driving program of the 1970s.

      • Swaren for May’or Metro

        Ron, common sense, fiscal or otherwise, brightens your aura Mon.