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TriMet Celebrates 25th Anniversary of MAX Light Rail

The Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) in Portland celebrated the 25th anniversary of its first light rail line, Eastside MAX, with events Sept. 1 in Portland and Gresham, OR.

The 15-mile Eastside MAX line was the first built in the region and only the third modern light rail line in the U.S. when it opened in 1986, compared with about 30 U.S. light rail systems today.

“In the past 25 years, we have significantly expanded our transit system, reached record ridership, while also helping to create and enhance neighborhoods along all of our MAX lines,” said TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane. “We’re a national leader in creating great communities with transit because it’s more than just moving people from one location to another, it’s about the land use and transit connection that has helped make this a great place to live.”

The Portland-Vancouver Metropolitan Transportation Study released in 1969 called for 54 new highways in the region, including the eight-lane Mount Hood Freeway that was set to cut SE Portland in two. Bold leadership and public resistance to the freeway sparked the light rail concept. Funds from the Mount Hood Freeway project and another abandoned freeway, I-505, went instead to light rail and improve existing roads.

The MAX system—which began with the connection between Gresham and Portland—now extends 52 miles and also serves Beaverton, Hillsboro, the Portland International Airport (PDX), and North/Northeast Portland. About 130,000 MAX trips are taken each weekday on the 52-mile MAX system, which has provided 483 million trips in its 25-year history.

In addition, MAX is a catalyst for transit-oriented development. Since the decision to build light rail in 1980, development totaling more than $10 billion has occurred within walking distance of MAX stations along the entire 52-mile system.

TriMet followed the initial light rail line with five others during the past quarter century:

* 18-mile Westside MAX between Portland, Beaverton and Hillsboro opened September 1998;

* 5.5-mile Airport MAX extended from the Gateway Transit Center to PDX opened September 2001;

* 5.8-mile Interstate MAX extended from the Expo Center to the Rose Quarter opened in May 2004; and

* 8.3-mile I-205/Portland Mall MAX between Gateway Transit Center to Clackamas Town Center, and a second alignment through downtown Portland along the Transit Mall opened September 2009.

The region’s sixth light rail project, the 7.3-mile Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project, is in the design/construction phase and is set to open in fall 2015.

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