We love to talk about Tilikum Crossing, the nation’s largest multi-modal bridge that doesn’t welcome the general public’s vehicles. Instead, the new bridge across Portland’s Willamette River lets TriMet light rail, streetcar and bus lines traverse its concrete structure. And pedestrians. You can’t forget the pedestrians. Or cyclists.

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The new bridge opened on Saturday, Sept. 12, for everyone not trying to drive a car across it. But the opening of Tilikum was about more than a bridge, as the crossing serves as the main feature of a large opening: TriMet’s Orange Line.

The new $1.5 billion, 7.3-mile light rail connection links downtown Portland to downtown Milwaukie by opening up service in Southeast Portland along the way. The first major addition to the TriMet MAX service since Clackamas Town Center received its Green Line stop in 2009, the Orange Link includes 10 new stations in all. Plus a pretty trip across Tilikum Crossing.

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The 26-minute ride from end-to-end offers riders a chance to connect to downtown Milwaukie, southeast of downtown Portland in Clackamas County, without skipping over portions of industrial areas in Southeast Portland and portions marked for future development.

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Beyond the MAX line, by adding streetcar service to Tilikum, Portland’s streetcar circuit now better connects to points east of the river. And new biking connections open up too.

The new Tilikum Crossing—and its nation’s first intrigue—will remain the pinnacle of the Orange Line. But the Orange Line is much more than just the Tilikum Crossing. 

Tim Newcomb is Engineering News-Record’s Pacific Northwest contributor. He writes for Popular MechanicsSports Illustrated and more. You can follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb or visit his website here.