Solving Stray Current Mitigation In Portland’s Rail System

By Aaron Eder, P.E. | August 2014, Vol. 69, No. 8
Rendering of the Portland-Milwaukie light rail system. (photo courtesy of TriMet)

Portland International Airport (PDX) had seen steady growth for many decades, becoming America’s fastest growing airport in the late 1990’s. Additional access was needed to address the increase in traffic congestion at and around the airport. The Airport MAX line, the first “train to plane” connection on the west coast, was also the first to take passengers directly to an airport terminal.

In April 2004, four months ahead of schedule and $25 million under budget, the Interstate MAX line opened for revenue service. Fred Hansen, TriMet’s General Manager at the time, referred to this line as the “phoenix line,” rising from the ashes of a previous and more extensive light rail project. In 1998, voters defeated a ballot for a north-south light rail from the southern-most portion of Portland to North Portland. However, a majority of the residents in North Portland voted in favor of the line, as this area was long in need of revitalization and would benefit substantially from the presence of light rail. With the community’s backing, TriMet decided to construct the Interstate MAX line, extending 5.8 miles from Portland’s Rose Garden Arena to the Expo Center.

Portland Mall Light Rail (Green Line)

When the Portland Mall was completed in 1978, it instantly received international attention as a model for transit and downtown redevelopment. What the Portland Mall revealed was a prototype for the redevelopment of a downtown, using a transit project as the catalyst. Today the Portland Mall – commonly referred to as the Transit Mall – serves many purposes. It is the front door for office buildings and retail businesses. It is a transit facility with the highest concentration of bus service in the city. It is an important public space comprising 17 total blocks in downtown. However, after more than 25 years of service, time had taken its toll. The most noticeable problem was that it looked worn out. The bricks and granite pavers were cracked in many places and the benches and other furnishings needed repair or replacement. Several businesses found that the Mall had been a poor front door for their businesses. Some even closed entrances that front Fifth and Sixth Avenues.