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TriMet begins work on first new Willamette bridge in 40 years

Groundbreaking ceremony set Thursday for nearly $134 million transit-only structure
by: Courtesy of TriMet A rendering shows pedestrians, bicyclists and light-rail trains using the new $134 million bridge over the Willamette River. The bridge is part of the 7.3-mile Portland-to-Milwaukie light-rail line and extends from the South Waterfront across the river near OMSI.

Construction of the 7.3-mile Portland-to-Milwaukie light-rail line begins Thursday morning when ground is broken for a transit bridge across the Willamette River between South Waterfront and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

The 10 a.m. groundbreaking ceremony is expected to attract a number of local officials, including Oregon U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Portland Mayor Sam Adams. Work in the water is scheduled to begin July 1.

The entire light-rail project is budgeted at $1.49 billion. The bridge will cost $134 million. When completed, the line will provide MAX service from the southern end of Portland State University to downtown Milwaukie.

The transit bridge will be the first span built over the Willamette since the Fremont Bridge, which started construction 40 years ago. When finished, it will carry light-rail trains, buses, streetcars, pedestrians and bicyclists across the river. Private automobiles will not be allowed on the bridge.

Closing the streetcar loop

The Portland-to-Milwaukie line has been many years in the planning. It is funded by a variety of project partners, including the Federal Transit Administration, the Oregon State Lottery, Metro, TriMet, the city of Portland, Clackamas County, the Oregon Department of Transportation, and the city of Milwaukie.

In recent months, TriMet has closed a projected budget gap by securing additional funding commitments from itself, Portland, Metro and ODOT.

Portland officials consider the project - including the bridge - essential to the success of South Waterfront, the neighborhood growing on the west bank of the Willamette River south of the Ross Island bridge.

Because automobile access is limited in the area, city planners are counting on residents and workers having access to a variety of transportation options, including transit and pedestrian and bicycle connections.

The bridge will eventually carry streetcars between inner west and east Portland, closing the long-planned Portland Streetcar loop around the downtown core. The streetcar project is one of Adams' top priorities.