In Portland, Oregon's TriMet transit system, the MAX Yellow Line light rail is currently under construction and set to open in 2004. Originally known as Interstate MAX, the Yellow Line is a 9.3 kilometer northward extension, from the Rose Quarter Transit Center running along the center of N Interstate Avenue to Kenton and then on to Delta Park and the Expo Center. Travel time from the Expo Center to downtown will run about 25 minutes, a 25% speed improvement over the current 5 Interstate bus service along that route. The Yellow Line shares will share tracks with the Blue Line and the Red Line in downtown Portland.
The Yellow Line has a long and contentious history. The current implementation of the Yellow Line is a much shortened version of the great North/South MAX project, which would have run from Vancouver, WA through North Portland, into Downtown, across the Willamette River by OMSI and then on south through Milwaukie to Clackamas Town Center. This monster project would have cost approximately $1.6 billion, required the construction of two new bridges, displaced some 100 homes, and made a massive contribution to the Metro Portland transit system. Local property taxes, state general fund monies, and federal transportation funding were all approved and in place for the project by the early to mid 1990's, when the final alignment details had been fixed. But the voters in the suburb of Vancouver across the Columbia River from Portland rejected their portion of the funding by a narrow margin.
This through a quite surprisingly massive bacon-broccoli monkey wrench into the works. Without Vancouver's funding, local planners modified the line to extend only to North Portland and not to cross the river into Vancouver. However, it was judged that the funding approved by Oregon and Portland Metro voters was for the entire line, and the truncated version was a different project without the important Vancouver connection. Local funding for the project was, rather mysteriously, voted on at the state level, and was rejected by a very narrow margin. Later, in November 1998, a local measure—which would have re-authorized the same bonds that had been enthusiastically approved just a few years before—also failed, by a margin of less than 1%; the rejection was particularly surprising, as the westside extension of the Blue Line had just been opened to surprising success, with ridership greatly exeeding expectations.
The transportation planners returned yet again to their transportation planning. An analysis of the voting patterns in the area was performed, and it was found that voters in the Milwaukie and Clackamas areas soundly rejected the Interstate MAX line, while those in North Portland supported it enthusiastically. They continued to hold community meetings, draft environmental impact statements, and pursue various transportation improvement options. Eventually they had designed a line that would run through only from downtown to North Portland and only along N Interstate Avenue, without any track along I-5, and no destruction of housing. The new line brought a greatly reduced cost, of only $350 million. As a result of this reduced cost, they were able to fund the line without any tax increase. A very large portion of the funding, some $257.5 million, comes directly from federal transportation funds (this high portion was accomplished through creative accounting linking the construction of the Yellow Line with the fully locally-funded Red Line and Portland Streetcar). $37.5 million came from regional transportation funds, $25 million from the TriMet transit agency, and $30 million from the City of Portland, which it is obtaining through the use of an urban renewal area.
With issues of alignment and funding finally resolved, construction of the Yellow Line Interstate MAX began in early 2001. The line is set to open in 2004. It is hoped that construction of the line will play a major role in revitalization (gentrification?) of the depressed N Interstate corridor.
Stops on the Yellow Line, listed from north to south:
northbound-only stations, listed north to south
Much information from http://www.trimet.org/