The Bridge Naming Committee unanimously selected “Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People” for the name for the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Bridge. The committee recommended it to TriMet’s General Manager Neil McFarlane, who thanked the committee for their work and deliberation, and accepted it as the name for the bridge.
The unique bridge, now under construction, is the first multi-modal bridge in the U.S. to carry light rail and streetcar trains, buses, bikes and pedestrians, but no private vehicles. The committee of 10 citizens from diverse backgrounds spent about eight months deliberating, which included reviewing nearly 9,500 submissions and thousands of comments from the public.
Committee Chair and historian Chet Orloff said the Native American name was selected because it holds the “most promise to connect the people of our region today with the long past of people who have been here for thousands of years, and to connect with future generations.”
“Tillicum” to “Tilikum”
While the spelling “Tillicum” was initially proposed, the Committee selected “Tilikum” because that is how the first people who lived here spelled the word. The word is Chinook Wawa, an international language used by first Oregonians, and later spoken by
explorers, fur traders, settlers and the first few generations of Portlanders. Chinook Wawa is still spoken today. Tilikum means people, tribe and relatives and has come to mean friendly people and friends.
“Tilikum symbolizes coming together,” said Orloff. “It conveys connections, in not only the relationships between people, but in the connections we will make as we ride, walk, run and cycle across this beautiful new bridge.”
Chinookans are indigenous peoples and tribes who have lived near the Columbia and Willamette rivers for 14,000 years. However, Chinook jargon is not the language of any one tribe.
A sampling of public submissions in favor of “Tilikum”:
“To honor Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest who used this word to name a friend, or refer to the common people.”
“This is a people’s bridge (not a car bridge) in more ways than one. This name also ties us to the past and present through this Northwest Native American word.”
Background: Criteria for naming the bridge
This is the first time the public has had the opportunity to participate in naming a bridge over the Willamette River in our area. The committee used the following criteria to select four finalist names, as well as the final name, including:
• Origin of name
• Meaning of proposed name
• Is it inspirational? If so, why?
• Does it reflect how bridge connects people? If so, how?
• Historical significance (if any)
• Biographical info (if commemorative)
• Any special cultural meaning?
• What will it mean 100 years from now?
• Regional perspective
About the Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People
The bridge, the first built over the Willamette River in Portland in more than 40 years, will be the first cable-stayed bridge for the region, extending 1,720 feet (.326 miles) over the river. The bridge alignment is SW Porter Street on the west side and SE Sherman Street on the east side. This unique bridge will carry transit, bicyclists and pedestrians but no private vehicles. Emergency vehicles will be able to access the bridge as necessary. The bridge includes two 14-foot-wide multi-use paths—one on the north side and one on the south—the widest multi-use paths on any bridge in Portland.
About the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project
The 7.3-mile project is the region’s sixth MAX construction project to be built and extends from the terminus of the MAX Green and Yellow lines at Portland State University in Downtown Portland to South Waterfront, SE Portland, Milwaukie and North Clackamas County. About the project:
• 7.3 miles
• 10 stations
• The first of its kind multi-modal transit bridge will carry light rail, buses, bikes, pedestrians and a future Portland Streetcar extension, but no private vehicles.
• Opens Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015
• Expands the MAX system to 60 miles and 97 stations
The Federal Transit Administration, State of Oregon, City of Portland, Portland Development Commission, Clackamas County, Metro, City of Milwaukie, Multnomah County, City of Oregon City, Oregon Department of Transportation and TriMet.