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'Bridge of the People'

Tilikum Crossing name reflects area's native roots, friendship


by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Chet Orloff, an adjunct professor of urban studies and planning at Portland State University, says the committee was unanimous in its name selection for the new Willamette River transit bridge. Orloff is also a 22-year member of the Oregon Geographic Names Board and director emeritus of the Oregon Historical Society.TriMet has named the new multimodal bridge over the Willamette River the Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People.

“Tilikum” is a Chinook Wawa word used by the earliest residents in the region that means people, tribe and relatives. With the passage of time, it also has come to mean friendly people and friends. Chinookans are indigenous people and tribes who have lived near the Columbia and Willamette rivers for 14,000 years.

The bridge is part of the $1.49 billion Portland-to-Milwaukie light-rail line that opens in September 2015.

The name is the first one chosen for a Willamette River bridge that involved a public process. It was unanimously recommended by a volunteer committee appointed by TriMet that received and reviewed more than 9,500 submissions from the public.

The committee was chaired by Chet Orloff, a 22-year member of the Oregon Geographic Names Board and director emeritus of the Oregon Historical Society. It narrowed the list to four names in January and agreed on Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People, within the past few weeks.

Orloff says that within the committee there was little disagreement on the name.

“There was unanimity among the 10 bridge-naming committee members over not just the final four selections, but the ultimate selection of Tilikum,” Orloff says.


Watch the new bridge name banner drop.


TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane, who accepted the recommendation from the committee, thanked the committee for its work. “The committee spent a tremendous amount of time and dedication to select a name that speaks to our past, our future, and the importance of transit connecting our community,” McFarlane says.

The other finalists considered by the committee were:

• Abigail Scott Duniway Transit Bridge. Duniway (1834-1915) was known as “the pioneer woman suffragist of the great Northwest” who dedicated herself to social justice, education and family welfare for more than 40 years. She was a tireless lecturer who led the fight to gain voting rights for women in Oregon, and she wrote and edited her own newspaper, “The New Northwest.” It would be the first Willamette River bridge named after a woman.

• Cascadia Crossing Transit Bridge. Cascadia takes its name from the Cascade Range and its snow-capped mountains, which provide a scenic backdrop along much of the Willamette River Valley. The word describes a cross-border region of the greater Northwest. The Cascadia region is generally considered to stretch from British Columbia to Northern California.

• Wy’east Transit Bridge. Wy’east is the original name of Mount Hood. According to Native American legend, two sons of the Great Spirit Sahale fell in love with the maiden Loowit. She couldn’t decide who to choose, and the two braves, Wy’east and Klickitat, burned villages and forests as they battled over her. Sahale became enraged and killed all three. Realizing what he had done, Sahale erected three mountains to mark where each fell: Mount St. Helens for Loowit, Mount Adams for Klickitat, and Mount Hood for Wy’east.

There had been some public support for naming the bridge after Duniway, in part, because no Willamette River bridge is named after a woman. Orloff says the committee did not feel pressured to chose Duniway because of that, and noted that no bridge is named after Native Americans, either.

“The committee members certainly expressed strong consensus around naming the bridge after a woman, yet there was stronger consens us for giving the bridge a name that reflects the region’s cultural — in other words, Indian — heritage, as well as conveys the concept of community, people and friendship,” Orloff says.

In making its decision, the committee rejected humorous and satiric names. Even such iconic words as Portlandia, Stumptown, Rose City and Rip City didn’t make the cut.

Other committee members are: Betty Dominguez, East County director of Home Forward; Matthew French, managing partner of Zidell Corp.; Sue Keil, member of the Willamette River Bridge Advisory Committee; David Lewis, cultural historian for The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde; Brenda Martin, Portland State University graduate student in urban and regional planning and regular transit rider; Alice Norris, former Oregon City mayor; Pat Reser, arts and historical advocate and Beaverton business owner; Travis Stovall, consultant and TriMet board member; and Krystyna Wolniakowski, director of the Western Partnership Office for National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

No private vehicles

The new bridge will be the first cable-stayed bridge in the region, extending 1,720 feet over the Willamette River. It is a unique multimodal bridge that will carry transit, bicyclists and pedestrians, but no private vehicles. Emergency vehicles will be able to access the bridge if necessary. The west end will connect to a new Southwest Porter Street that runs next to the OHSU/OSU Collaborative Life Sciences Building that is under construction. The east end leads to Southeast Sherman Street near the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and the Portland Opera headquarters.

When it is finished, the new 7.3-mile Portland-to-Milwaukie light-rail line will connect Portland State University in downtown Portland with inner Southeast Portland, Milwaukie and northern Clackamas County. It will include 10 new MAX stations and is projected to carry up to an average of 25,500 weekday riders.

The line is scheduled to open Sept. 12, 2015. TriMet projects the bridge itself will carry 22,765 weekday riders by 2030. It will be the first new bridge over the Willamette River in 40 years.

The Portland-Milwaukie line is more than 75 percent complete. It is a partnership of the Federal Transit Administration, Metro, TriMet, the city of Portland, the city of Milwaukie, the city of Oregon City, Clackamas County, Multnomah County and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Orloff explains the committee’s reason in an opinion piece in the April 17 Portland Tribune.