And Then There Was 4

Bridge name finalists rooted in cultural significance

Donovan M. Smith | 1/22/2014, 1:13 p.m.
The top four names under consideration for the new transit bridge under construction over the Willamette River, downtown, have historic and cultural significance. They are Abigail Scott Duniway, a pioneer activist in the right for women to vote in Oregon; Cascadia Crossing, for the Pacific Northwest’s Cascade Mountains; and Tillicum Crossing and Wy’east, two names rooted in Native American history and language. Photo courtesy of TriMet

After a fierce search for the right name for the new light rail bridge under construction over the Willamette River, a committee of 10 has finally narrowed the list of possibilities to four names that meet criteria for cultural and geographic significance.

The Milwaukie-Portland light Rail transit bridge, just south of the I-5 Marquam Bridge, has been under construction for over a year now. The span was designed to exclusively carry light rail trains, bicyclists, and pedestrians but no vehicles. Emergency vehicles would be allowed as necessary.

To give the transit bridge an official identity, Tri-Met appointed a naming committee headed by Chet Orloff, a 22-year veteran of the Oregon Geographic Names Board. The group followed criteria to find a name that would be culturally significant to the region, and reflect how the 1,720-foot bridge connects people.

Over 9,500 potential names were submitted to the committee.

The final four are Abigail Scott Duniway, named after a pioneer Oregon activist who fought to give women the right to vote; Cascadia Crossing, in geographic reference to the Pacific Northwest’s Cascade Mountain Range; and Tillicum Crossing and Wy’east, two names rooted in Oregon’s Native American culture. Tillicum is a word for people in the Chinookian language and Wy’east was the name Native tribes had deemed for Mount Hood.

The most popular submission to the committee was the “Kirk Reeves Bridge,” a tribute to the late trumpeter Kirk Reeves, an African American resident who was known for entertaining commuters for years on the Hawthorne Bridge.

TriMet will take public comment on the four finalists until March 1. The ultimate decision on the transit bridge’s new name will come from TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane, sometime this spring, officials said.

The bridge is currently set to open September 2015.

--Donovan M. Smith