MAX Orange Line

The MAX Orange Line is a light rail service in Portland, Oregon, United States, operated by TriMet as part of the MAX Light Rail system. It connects Portland City Center to Portland State University (PSU), Southeast Portland, Milwaukie, and Oak Grove. The Orange Line starts near Portland Union Station heading southbound within downtown Portland along the Portland Transit Mall on 5th Avenue. From the transit mall, it continues along a 7.3-mile (11.7 km) segment, which runs through the South Waterfront, across the Willamette River into Southeast Portland, then south to Oak Grove, just outside Milwaukie proper in unincorporated Clackamas County. The Orange Line serves 17 stations from Union Station/Northwest 5th & Glisan to Southeast Park Avenue and runs for 20​12 hours daily with a minimum headway of 15 minutes during most of the day. The line carried an average of 11,500 daily weekday riders in September 2019.

MAX Orange Line
A view of the Tilikum Crossing bridge with a MAX train traveling northbound and pedestrians walking alongside
A two-car train on Tilikum Crossing
Overview
Other name(s)Portland–Milwaukie Light Rail Project[1][2]
StatusOperational
OwnerTriMet
LocalePortland, Oregon, U.S.
TerminiPortland Union Station (north)
Southeast Park Avenue near Milwaukie in Oak Grove (south)
Stations17
WebsiteMAX Orange Line
Service
TypeLight rail
SystemMAX Light Rail
Operator(s)TriMet
Daily ridership11,500 (as of September 2019)[3]
History
OpenedSeptember 12, 2015 (2015-09-12)
Technical
Line length7.3 mi (11.7 km)[a]
CharacterAt-grade and elevated
Route diagram

 
Most southbound Yellow Line
trains become Orange Line
 
Union Station/NW 5th & Glisan
AmtrakDivision Transit Project
Union Station/NW 6th & Hoyt
AmtrakDivision Transit Project
NW 5th & Couch
NW 6th & Davis
SW 5th & Oak
SW 6th & Pine
Pioneer Place
Pioneer Courthouse
to Gresham to Airport
City Hall/SW 5th & Jefferson
SW 6th & Madison
 B  Loop NS  Line (SW Market St)
PSU Urban Ctr/SW 5th & Mill
Portland Streetcar
 A  Loop NS  Line (SW Mill/SW Montgomery St)
PSU Urban Ctr/SW 6th & Montgomery
Portland Streetcar
PSU South/SW 5th & Jackson
Division Transit Project
PSU South/SW 6th & College
Division Transit Project
Terminus
Most northbound Orange Line
trains become Yellow Line
Lincoln St/SW 3rd
Division Transit Project
 NS  Line (SW Moody Ave)
South Waterfront/SW Moody
Portland StreetcarDivision Transit Project
OMSI/SE Water
Portland StreetcarDivision Transit Project
 A  Loop B  Loop
Clinton/SE 12th
SE 17th & Rhine
SE 17th & Holgate
SE Harold (planned)
SE Bybee
SE Tacoma/Johnson Creek
Parking
Milwaukie/Main
SE Park
Parking

The Portland–Milwaukie Light Rail Project was the second and final phase of the South Corridor Transportation Project that in its first phase expanded light rail services to Interstate 205 (I-205) and the Portland Transit Mall. The Portland–Milwaukie extension, which followed years of failed light rail plans for Clackamas County, began construction work in mid-2011. As part of the project, TriMet built Tilikum Crossing over the Willamette River, the first major "car-free" bridge in the United States. The extension opened to Orange Line service on September 12, 2015.

Within the Portland Transit Mall, the Orange Line operates as a southbound through service of the Yellow Line from Union Station/Northwest 5th & Glisan station, sharing the tracks on 5th Avenue with the Green Line. From PSU South/Southwest 6th and College station, the Orange Line operates through to the Yellow Line as a northbound service on 6th Avenue, terminating at Expo Center station in North Portland.

HistoryEdit

Early proposals to Clackamas CountyEdit

In 1975, amid calls to transfer federal assistance funds from the canceled Mount Hood Freeway project to other transportation projects in the Portland metropolitan area, the Columbia Region Association of Governments (CRAG) proposed a series of "transitway" corridors.[5][6] CRAG's proposal, which it adopted in an interim transportation plan, envisioned several bus corridors between Portland and its suburbs. It also proposed a single light rail corridor from downtown Portland to Oregon City in Clackamas County with a spur line from Milwaukie to Lents that would occupy old Portland Traction Company rights-of-way.[7] CRAG's indecision about the exact use of the transfer money, as requested by the Federal Highway Administration,[8] delayed the acquisition of funds.[9][10] That November, regional transit agency TriMet lost its option to purchase used PCC streetcars from Toronto, which it had hoped to use on the proposed Portland–Oregon City line, after the Toronto Transit Commission declined to renew TriMet's hold.[11][12]

The following year, the Portland City Council separately approved the addition of a busway component to the I-205 Freeway, which was under construction at the time in Portland's east side.[13] This bus corridor, which would be called the I-205 Transitway, was a physically separate route running parallel to the freeway.[14] The I-205 Transitway's realization led TriMet to prioritize the development of the Banfield Transitway,[15]:31 a similarly planned stretch of I-84 connecting I-5 in downtown Portland east to I-205.[16]:ii The Banfield Transitway Project, which was originally proposed as another busway,[17] was allocated the transfer funds although ultimately built as a light rail line.[18][19] The first segment of the Metropolitan Area Express (MAX) began operating between Gresham and Portland on September 5, 1986.[20]

Several months before the inauguration of MAX, Metro, which replaced CRAG in 1979,[21]:12 renewed talks about extending light rail from Portland to Milwaukie and to Oregon City via McLoughlin Boulevard and proposed converting the partially built I-205 Transitway between Portland International Airport and Clackamas Town Center from a busway into another light rail line.[22] By this time, TriMet had already prioritized planning for a westside extension of MAX to Hillsboro in Washington County.[23] Noting federal funds could only be spent on one light rail project at a time, Metro's Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation (JPACT) made the I-205 line their next priority after the westside line due to the existing I-205 Transitway right-of-way; the McLoughlin Boulevard line became JPACT's third priority.[24] Despite this decision, Clackamas County officials went on to dispute the federal money, including $17 million in excess funds that had been allocated to the partially realized I-205 Transitway.[25][26] To settle the issue, Metro released a regional transportation plan (RTP) that reasserted the westside line's priority in January 1989.[27]

Failed South/North lineEdit

 
A lawn sign supporting the 1998 South/North ballot measure

Metro's RTP commissioned studies for the I-205 and McLoughlin Boulevard light rail proposals,[27][28] and in September 1989, U.S. Senators Mark Hatfield of Oregon and Brock Adams of Washington, who were members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations, secured $2 million from the federal government to assess both segments. At the request of the two senators, a segment farther north to Vancouver and Clark County in Washington became part of the proposals.[29][30] As the studies analyzed alternative routes, the project's advisory committee increasingly favored an alignment closer to downtown Portland along the busier I-5 and Willamette River corridors.[31] In 1994, Metro finalized a 25-mile (40 km) light rail route from Hazel Dell, Washington, through downtown Portland to Clackamas Town Center,[32] which TriMet formally called the "South/North Corridor".[33]:80[34]

In November that year, Metro asked Oregon voters in the Portland metropolitan area if they would authorize a $475 million bond measure, which would provide funding for Oregon's share of the project's estimated $2.8 billion cost. Nearly two-thirds of the voters said yes.[35] To fund Washington's $237.5 million share, Clark County proposed raising sales and vehicle excise taxes by 0.3 percent, which also required voter approval. On February 7, 1995, 69 percent of those who voted in Clark County rejected the proposed tax increases, halting the project.[36][37] Planning for the South/North Corridor resumed later that year when TriMet released a revision that scaled back the line's northern half by eliminating its North Portland and Clark County segments up to the Rose Quarter.[38] To fill the funding gap that resulted from the exclusion of Clark County, the Oregon House of Representatives passed a $750 million transportation package that included $375 million for the project.[39] The Oregon Supreme Court promptly struck down this funding due to the inclusion of unrelated measures, which violated the state's constitution.[40][41] In February 1996, state legislators revised the package, but in November, light rail opponents forced a statewide vote that ultimately prevented the use of state funds.[40][42]

In February 1997, in an effort to obtain the support of North Portland residents, who had historically voted in favor of light rail, and to avoid seeking state funding,[43] TriMet announced a third plan that proposed a 15-mile (24 km) line from Lombard Street in North Portland to Clackamas Town Center.[44] The Portland City Council later extended the alignment through North Portland so it would terminate another mile north of Lombard Street in Kenton.[45] In August, due to the wording on the original ballot passed in 1994, which described the line extending into Clark County, the TriMet board decided to hold another vote on a new $475 million bond measure.[46] Portland area residents voted on the measure on November 3, 1998, and rejected it by 52 percent, effectively canceling the project.[47] Despite the South/North project's cancellation, North Portland residents and city business leaders continued to push for light rail.[48][49] In 1999, they urged TriMet to revive the northern portion of the South/North project,[50] which led to the Interstate MAX and Yellow Line opening in 2004.[51][52]

Revival and fundingEdit

 
The Portland–Milwaukie Light Rail Bridge, later inaugurated as Tilikum Crossing, under construction in 2013

In April 1999, JPACT revived transit plans for I-205 and McLoughlin Boulevard by announcing the $8.8 million South Corridor Transportation Study,[53]:S-6 which would analyze transportation alternatives for each corridor.[54][55] In October 2000, the committee published a report that narrowed the range of alternatives. The report outlined constructing either two light rail lines, a combination of a light rail line and an improved bus service, bus rapid transit, or dedicated bus lanes.[53]:S-6[56] The South Corridor Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was published in December 2002.[53]:S-7 After public meetings concluded in 2003, JPACT recommended both light rail options.[57] They decided the first MAX line to Clackamas County should be built along the I-205 Transitway from Gateway to Clackamas Town Center, and that this would be the first of two phases, the second of which would be a Portland–Milwaukie line.[58] While planning for the second phase, the alignment studies showed that a fourth service along the existing downtown tracks on Morrison and Yamhill streets, then served by the Blue, Red, and Yellow lines, would push that alignment to maximum capacity. JPACT responded by amending the first phase to include building light rail on the Portland Transit Mall.[59]:P-2[60] The first phase was completed in 2009, with the transit mall rebuilt with light rail and the Yellow Line rerouted to it that August.[61] The I-205 MAX opened the following month with a new Green Line service.[62][63]

Meanwhile, planning for the Portland–Milwaukie line, including the study of and public input on several alternatives for the exact route, continued. In July 2008, Metro adopted a locally preferred alternative (LPA) alignment that began at the southern end of the Portland Transit Mall and terminated at Southeast Park Avenue in Oak Grove, just south of Milwaukie proper in unincorporated Clackamas County; the alignment was extended beyond Southeast Lake Road in downtown Milwaukie,[64]:6 which had been the terminus in the 2003 LPA.[53]:S-7,S-11 The 2008 LPA also adopted a proposal for a new bridge that would carry MAX and the Portland Streetcar over the Willamette River rather than using the Hawthorne Bridge amid fears that the latter would create a traffic bottleneck.[65][66] This new bridge was originally planned to run between RiverPlace on the west end and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) on the east end, but the LPA introduced new alternatives that moved its west end farther south in the South Waterfront.[64]:6–9 TriMet designed the new bridge to be "car-free", accommodating only transit vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians—the first such major bridge in the country.[67][68] The Portland–Milwaukie project's final EIS was published in October 2010.[34]

The Portland–Milwaukie Light Rail Project was budgeted at $1.49 billion (equivalent to $1.6 billion in 2019 dollars), of which federal funding covered $745.18 million under the New Starts program.[69] Despite TriMet's request for a 60-percent federal share, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) only committed 50 percent to the total cost, lower than any previous MAX project.[70] Oregon provided the second-largest share at $355.2 million, which was mostly sourced from state lottery bond proceeds. Metro, TriMet, Clackamas County, Portland, Milwaukie, and in-kind property donations contributed $249.33 million to the remaining local-match funds. TriMet and the FTA entered into a funding agreement in May 2012.[69] Clackamas County had originally agreed to allocate $25 million to the project but it later negotiated a reduction to $22.6 million due to Measure 3-401,[71] an anti-light rail initiative that light rail opponents gathered enough signatures for to place it on the next ballot. The measure stipulated voter approval before officials could spend funds to finance, design, construct, or operate rail lines in the county.[72] On September 18, 2012, Measure 3-401 passed with 60 percent of the vote.[73] After the vote, Clackamas County attempted to end its involvement with the project, appealing to TriMet to terminate the extension at Southeast Tacoma/Johnson Creek station, just north of the county line. TriMet filed a lawsuit, and in July 2013, a circuit court upheld the county's financial obligation and the project's continuation.[15]:95–96

Construction and openingEdit

 
Riders at Milwaukie/Main Street station on opening day

On April 5, 2011, the FTA approved the start of the Portland–Milwaukie Light Rail Project's final design,[74][75] which meant TriMet could begin purchasing rights-of-way and construction materials.[74] Construction began on June 30, initially limited to the site of the new Willamette River crossing,[76] which was temporarily named the "Portland–Milwaukie Light Rail Bridge".[77] Utility relocation and other preparation work along the project route began later that year.[78][79] By 2013, major light rail construction work had started in Clackamas County.[80] Safety improvements were made at several street-level crossings in Southeast Portland and Milwaukie, allowing these crossings to be designated quiet zones—areas where freight and MAX trains do not have to use their horns when crossing an intersection.[81] The project was halfway completed by July 2013.[82] In April 2014, TriMet officially named the new bridge "Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People", which it selected from over 9,500 public submissions.[83] The agency purchased 18 new Siemens S70 light rail vehicles, designated "Type 5"; the first car arrived in Portland that September.[84] When construction finished the following year, the line was around $40 million under budget. A petition from Senator Jeff Merkley led the FTA to approve previously eliminated project elements such as switch heaters and additional station shelters, at a total cost of $3.6 million.[85]

On May 15, 2015, the first public train ride, which carried 500 passengers including Governor Kate Brown and Senator Merkley, ran at regular operating speed along the entirety of the 7.3 miles (11.7 km) Portland–Milwaukie extension.[86] On August 30, test trains began running along the entire Orange Line route, ahead of the following month's opening date.[87] The extension opened for service on September 12 at 11 am.[88][89] The Orange Line became interlined with and took over the Yellow Line's southbound 5th Avenue segment of the Portland Transit Mall. TriMet said separating the services would allow it to better control service frequencies from North Portland and Milwaukie to downtown Portland because it expected higher ridership of the Orange Line and that few riders from these communities would travel beyond the city center.[90]

RouteEdit

 
MAX at the south end of downtown Portland, on the viaduct carrying it over Harbor Drive and River Parkway

The Orange Line serves the 7.3-mile-long (11.7 km) Portland–Milwaukie extension.[a] Orange Line service begins farther north of the Portland–Milwaukie segment at Union Station/Northwest 5th & Glisan station near Portland Union Station in downtown Portland, where southbound Yellow Line trains through-operate into the Orange Line to serve the 5th Avenue segment of the Portland Transit Mall. Conversely, northbound Orange Line trains through-operate into the Yellow Line to serve the 6th Avenue segment of the transit mall.[91] Just south of the PSU South stations, the Portland-Milwaukie segment begins where tracks travel east along the median of Lincoln Street to a stop on 3rd Avenue. From here, the line continues east along Lincoln to an elevated viaduct after an intersection with Naito Parkway.[92] The viaduct carries the line over Harbor Drive and River Parkway to the South Waterfront, where tracks merge with those of the Portland Streetcar's Loop Service. The lines then cross the Willamette River on Tilikum Crossing.[93][94]

On the opposite end of Tilikum Crossing in Southeast Portland, the streetcar tracks diverge near OMSI. The MAX tracks turn southeast and run parallel to the Union Pacific Railroad (UP),[95][96] A stop is located near the intersection of Clinton Street and 12th Avenue.[97] At 17th Avenue, the line turns south and runs along the median of 17th Avenue with stops at Holgate Boulevard and Rhine Street.[98] It exits the median just north of McLoughlin Boulevard and continues parallel to this road, the Portland and Western Railroad, and UP through to Milwaukie, with stops at Bybee Boulevard and Tacoma Street.[99]:15–16 After a stop at Main Street in downtown Milwaukie,[100] the line traverses the Kellogg Bridge across Kellogg Lake to 22nd Avenue.[93] From here, the tracks leave the viaduct and again travel at-grade alongside McLoughlin Boulevard to a three-track stub terminal at Park Avenue in Oak Grove, just south of Milwaukie proper.[101][102]

 
A geographic map of the MAX Orange Line (in red) relative to the rest of the network (in black) with icons marking the line's termini. The official system schematic can be viewed on the TriMet website.

StationsEdit

 
Union Station/Northwest 5th & Gilsan station, where most southbound Yellow Line trains switch to Orange Line service
 
Southeast Bybee Boulevard station
 
Southeast Park Avenue station, the Orange Line's southern terminus

The Portland–Milwaukie extension consists of ten stations from Lincoln Street/Southwest 3rd Avenue to Southeast Park Avenue, of which two are within Clackamas County: Milwaukie/Main Street in downtown Milwaukie and Southeast Park Avenue in Oak Grove. The Orange Line is the only service that serves stations on the Portland–Milwaukie segment. The Orange Line also serves seven stations in downtown Portland along the southbound segment of the Portland Transit Mall on 5th Avenue; these are shared with the Green Line. Transfers to the Yellow Line, which runs northbound from PSU South in downtown Portland to the Expo Center, can be made at any of the seven stations along the Transit Mall's 6th Avenue alignment, although most northbound Orange Line trains through-operate into the Yellow Line. Transfers to the Blue Line and the Red Line are available at Pioneer Place/Southwest 5th station. The Orange Line also provides connections to local and intercity bus services at several stops, to Amtrak near Union Station/Northwest 5th & Glisan station,[91] and to the Portland Streetcar at the PSU Urban Center/Southwest 5th & Mill and OMSI/Southeast Water stations.[103] Many stations along the Orange Line have public artwork, commissioned as part of TriMet's public art program.[104]:7

In 2015, as part of a future pilot program to test the Hop Fastpass automated fare collection system, TriMet proposed installing turnstiles through which passengers would access paid fare zones within the Southeast Bybee Boulevard and Southeast Park Avenue stations.[105] As of 2019, these plans have not been enacted.[106]:6–7[107]

Key
Icon Purpose
  Terminus
Southbound travel only[b]
List of MAX Orange Line stations
Station[4] Location Commenced Line transfers[108] Other connections and notes[108][91][c]
Union Station/Northwest 5th & Glisan  Portland
Transit
Mall
September 12, 2015   Amtrak
  Greyhound, POINT, TCTD
Serves Portland Union Station
Northwest 5th & Couch
Southwest 5th & Oak
Pioneer Place/Southwest 5th Serves the Pioneer Courthouse, Pioneer Courthouse Square
City Hall/Southwest 5th & Jefferson
PSU Urban Center/Southwest 5th & Mill   Portland Streetcar
Serves Portland State University
PSU South/Southwest 5th and Jackson Serves Portland State University
Lincoln Street/Southwest 3rd Avenue Portland
South Waterfront/Southwest Moody   Portland Streetcar
Serves OHSU Robertson Life Sciences Building, Tilikum Crossing
OMSI/Southeast Water   Portland Streetcar
Serves OMSI, Tilikum Crossing
Clinton Street/Southeast 12th Avenue
Southeast 17th Avenue and Rhine Street
Southeast 17th Avenue and Holgate Boulevard
Southeast Bybee Boulevard
Southeast Tacoma/Johnson Creek
Milwaukie/Main Street Milwaukie
Southeast Park Avenue 

ServiceEdit

 
MAX along the median of Southeast 17th Avenue, passing TriMet's Operations Headquarters

As of October 2020, the Orange Line operates for approximately 20​12 hours per day on weekdays; the first train arrives as a southbound service at Union Station/Northwest 5th & Glisan station at 5:02 am. The first northbound train departs Southeast Park Avenue station at 6:14 am. End-to-end travel takes approximately 35 minutes.[109] During peak hours, some Orange Line trains do not become Yellow Line trains; they loop back along the Transit Mall and return to Milwaukie. This is due to higher projected ridership along the Orange Line than the Yellow Line.[90] The last Milwaukie-bound train departs Union Station/Northwest 5th & Glisan station at 12:02 am and the last Portland City Center-bound train departs Southeast Park Avenue station at 12:56 am.[109] TriMet designates the Orange Line as a "Frequent Service" route, running on a headway of 15 minutes during most of the day. Service is less frequent in the early mornings and late evenings, with headways of up to 30 minutes.[110] In the late evenings, the Orange Line is supplemented by TriMet bus route 291–Orange Night Bus, which runs south from downtown Portland to Milwaukie following the Orange Line route. Two trips run on weekdays and one trip runs on Saturdays and Sundays.[111][112]

RidershipEdit

The Orange Line is the least-busy MAX service, averaging 11,500 riders on weekdays in September 2019,[3] down from 11,750 for the same month in 2018.[113] Forecasts that were used to help justify federal funding for the project predicted an average of 17,000 weekday trips in 2016 but by October of that year, the Orange Line was averaging fewer than 11,000 passengers.[114]

Explanatory notesEdit

  1. ^ a b TriMet publications only provide the total length of the Portland–Milwaukie extension, i.e., the 7.3-mile (11.7 km) section that was newly built. The total length of Orange Line service, which includes a segment of the Portland Transit Mall, is not provided.[4]:4
  2. ^ Most Orange Line trains on the Portland Transit Mall travel southbound only. Most northbound trains through operate into the Yellow Line bound for Expo Center in North Portland at PSU South/Southwest 6th and College.[108]
  3. ^ This list of service connections excludes TriMet bus connections. For a complete list that includes all transfers, see: List of MAX Light Rail stations.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project". Metro. Archived from the original on April 2, 2021. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
  2. ^ "PMLR Project History". TriMet. Archived from the original on March 2, 2019. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "September 2019 Monthly Performance Report" (PDF). TriMet. Archived (PDF) from the original on April 26, 2020. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  4. ^ a b "Portland–Milwaukie MAX Orange Line" (PDF). TriMet. July 2016. Archived (PDF) from the original on April 23, 2019. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
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  8. ^ "Freeway fund report delayed". The Oregonian. December 19, 1975. p. F8.
  9. ^ Mosey, Ed (January 8, 1976). "Delay urged in deciding use of Mt. Hood freeway funds". The Oregonian. p. A24.
  10. ^ Hortsch, Dan (January 23, 1976). "Shift of freeway funds stirs complex situation". The Oregonian. p. A15.
  11. ^ "Bus firm OKs option to buy 15 old streetcars". The Oregonian. May 7, 1974. p. 6.
  12. ^ Hobart, Sue (November 30, 1975). "Tri-Met loses option to buy used streetcars". The Oregonian. p. D6. Retrieved April 25, 2020 – via NewsBank.
  13. ^ Collins, Huntly (June 4, 1976). "City Council OKs I-205 completion". The Oregonian. p. B1.
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  15. ^ a b Selinger, Philip (October 2019). "Making History: 50 Years of Transit in the Portland Region" (PDF). TriMet. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 25, 2020. Retrieved February 25, 2020.
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  24. ^ Bodine, Harry (October 27, 1987). "Panel puts top priority on mass transit, major highway projects". The Oregonian. p. B4.
  25. ^ Green, Ashbel (October 6, 1988). "County officials debate light-rail routes". The Oregonian. p. W1.
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  27. ^ a b Bodine, Harry (January 14, 1989). "Metro OKs $1.5 billion transit plan". The Oregonian. p. D1.
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  29. ^ Kohler, Vince; Stewart, Bill (September 10, 1989). "Light-rail proposals gain ground in Congress; senate panel approves transportation funding bill, aiding plans for new Oregon City, Vancouver lines". The Oregonian. p. C2.
  30. ^ Stewart, Bill (January 12, 1993). "County light-rail project gains momentum". The Oregonian. p. B2.
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  40. ^ a b "Some light-rail history". The Oregonian. October 7, 1996. p. A8.
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