The Airport MAX Red Line is a 5.5 mile extension of the light rail system in Portland, Oregon. This line extension project includes 4 stations and connects the Gateway Transit Center to Portland International Airport (PDX).
Project Type:Line Extension Project Mode:Light Rail Average Weekday Riders:26,122 Length (mi):5.50
Economic Distress:1.07 Population Density (ppl/sq mi):1514 Population Growth Rate (%):0.94
Employment Growth Rate (%):2.15 Market Size:1,791,392 Airport Travel Distance: Topography:21
Region:Rocky Mountain / Far West State:OR County:Multnomah
City:Portland Urban/Class Level:Metro Local Area:City Portland
Impact Area:The area within a half-mile radius from each station Transportation System:TriMet GIS Lat/Long:45.560629 / -122.563545
Initial Study Date:1998 Post Constr. Study Date:2006
Constr. Start Date:1998 Constr. End Date:2001
Project Year of Expenditure (YOE): 1999 Planned Cost (YOE $):N/A
Actual Cost (YOE $):125,800,000 Actual Cost (curr $):174,200,000
NOTE: All pre/post dollar values are in 2013$
Select a region to display the conditions for that region:
NOTE: All impact dollar values are in 2013$
|Income (in $M's)||167.21||91.74||258.95|
|Output (in $M's)||382.48||271.43||653.91|
The Airport MAX (Metropolitan Area Express) is a 5.5-mile/4-station extension of the Red Line light rail in Portland, Oregon. This project connects the Portland International Airport (PDX) to downtown Portland. In 1999, construction of this line extension began under a public-private partnership and was completed in 2001 with a total cost of $174.2 M (in 2013 dollars). TriMet is the operator of the line.
As of 2006, TriMet reported a ridership of more than 8.15 million per year for the Airport MAX extension. In the same year, more than 3,200 passengers got on or off the line at the Portland Airport station on an average weekday.
The primary motivation for the construction of the Airport MAX Red Line was providing light rail access to PDX and supporting the development of a 120-acre site located near the airport. Due to the construction of the Airport MAX Red Line extension, new businesses have created an estimated 3,390 jobs in the areas surrounding the new stations. More than 70% of these are office jobs, while the remaining jobs are associated with new retail and big box stores such as IKEA and Target.
2.1 Location & Transportation Connections
The MAX (Metropolitan Area Express) Light Rail is part of the transit system of Portland. MAX Light Rail is consisted of 97 stations on a 60-mile system of 5 lines: Blue Line which runs from east of Portland (Gresham) all the way to Hillsborough in west; Green Line which connects the two sides of the Willamette River; Yellow Line which connects north Portland to Portland State University in south; Orange Line which runs along the Portland Transit Mall to Milwaukie River front and Red Line which connects the PDX airport to Downtown Portland and Beaverton. TriMet’s Red Line and Blue Line trains connect at the Gateway transit center and follow the same path all the way to the Beaverton Transit Center in Southwest Portland.
The MAX Light Rail system is entwined with Portland Streetcar, WES Commuter rail and City’s bus system, serving the Portland Metropolitan Area. Amtrak/Union Station is located half a mile from the Old Town/ Chinatown station of the MAX Red Line, providing access to intercity passenger rail. Portland A-Loop, B-Loop and North-South Streetcar lines are accessible through multiple MAX stations on BLUE, Red, Green and Yellow Lines. The MAX Light Rail provides transit access to many attractions such as Portland Convention Center, Moda Center and Portland Market.
The extension of the TriMet’s Red Line to PDX is located in the northeast area of Greater Portland, between Interstate 84 and the Columbia River. The Airport MAX Red Line has 4 stations beginning at the Gateway Transit Center station near the Interstate 205/Interstate 84 interchange, passing through Parkrose (Sumner Transit Center) station, Cascade and Mt Hood stations, and ending at the Portland Airport station. The Airport MAX Red Line runs roughly parallel to Interstate 205 between the Gateway Transit Center and the Cascade station.
The Portland International Airport (PDX) is accessible through the MAX Red Line Airport station. The PDX is a joint military-general aviation airport with more than 227,000 annual operations (2016 data). About 87% of the flight operation are commercial, of which about 96% are to domestic destinations.
2.2 Community Character & Project Context
The City of Portland is located at the/junction of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. It is the largest city in the state of Oregon and the Multnomah County seat. The City of Portland is part of Greater Portland or the Portland metropolitan area, which also includes the Cities of Vancouver, Beaverton, Gresham, Hillsboro, Milwaukie, Lake Oswego, Oregon City, Fairview, Wood Village, Troutdale, Tualatin, Tigard, West Linn, Battle Ground, Camas, and Washougal.
The city of Portland is known as the “center of commerce, industry, transportation, finance, and service industries in the area”. As of 2006, the major employers in the Portland metropolitan area were the state of Oregon, the U.S. Government, and Intel Corporation, accounting for more than 55,000 jobs combined (about 20% of the total employment of the City).
In 2006, the Portland metropolitan area held a population of more than 2 million, with around 539,950 located within the boundaries of the City of Portland. Between 1998 and 2006, the city population itself grew by 5.9%. During the same period, the State of Oregon had a 10.3% growth in population while Multnomah County experienced a 14.4% growth in population.
Between 1999 and 2006, the number of jobs within the city increased by 5%. Between 1998 and 2006, the total number of jobs of the State of Oregon and the Multnomah County increased by 12.2% and 3.6% respectively.
In 1998, the personal income per capita of the Portland metropolitan area was $29,397, 11% above the national income per capita. By 2006, the per capita income had grown by 32% to $38,735. The per capita income for the State of Oregon grew by 33% between 1998 and 2006, while there was a 34.4% increase in per capita income in Multnomah County over the same time period.
Northeast Portland, where the PDX extension in located, has a diverse collection of neighborhoods, with Madison South, Rose City Park, and Sumner surrounding the Airport MAX Red Line stations. The Sumner neighborhood mainly contains PDX and some industrial and commercial land uses north of the Columbia River, while Madison South and Rose City Park are densely populated and developed neighborhoods.
The area between Cascade station and the PDX terminal was mostly undeveloped land belonging to the airport; located within the Sumner neighborhood, this area has had the most significant developments after the construction of the Airport MAX light rail.
The 5.5-mile Airport MAX Red Line extension project included 4 new stations. Starting at the Gateway Transit Center station, the line passes through Parkrose (Sumner Transit Center) station, Cascade and Mt Hood stations, and ends at the Portland Airport station.
The first part of the MAX light rail system opened in the mid-1980s. At that time, the initial plans for the transit system included a future extension of the MAX system to PDX. Interstate 205 was designed with a median to accommodate the future light rail alignment. PDX also included the location for a future light rail station in its plans for airport expansion. These advanced plans for the Airport MAX Red Line extension project estimated its service start date as 2010. However, the public-private partnership lead to the completion of the extension in 2001, nearly 10 years ahead of schedule. This public-private partnership was between Bechtel Enterprises, Trammell Crow real estate company, the City of Portland, TriMet (Portland’s regional transit agency), and the Port of Portland. Bechtel Enterprises contributed to about a quarter of the $174.2 M cost of the project (in 2013 dollars).
In 1997, Bechtel Enterprises proposed a design-build plan to the City of Portland and the extension of the MAX Red Line to the PDX airport was approved by the Public Review Committee in 1998. In the contract proposal, Bechtel Enterprises pledged to contribute about a quarter of the total design-build cost of the project. In return, Bechtel asked for the development rights to a 120-acre site located near the PDX airport (and the Cascade station). Bechtel’s primary objective was to build a major employment center on the east side of the city because it was in close proximity to major transportation infrastructures such as PDX, Interstates 205 and 84 and the then proposed light rail extension.
The project funding was provided partly by local financial support (18.8% from City of Portland, 35.7% from TriMet, 22.4% from Port of Portland) and partly by Bechtel Enterprises (23.1%). The City of Portland provided its 18.8% share of the project funding by using tax increment financing from development that occurred around the line after it was built, while TriMet paid its 35.7% share from its general funds. TriMet also provided tax-exempt bonds to Bechtel Enterprises to finance their 23.1% contribution. The fact that the project used no direct funds from the federal government simplified the decision-making and approval process.
The construction of the light rail project began in 1999 and took less than 30 months to complete. Although ridership on the Airport MAX Red Line increased steadily from the day it opened (the ridership increased by 80% between 2001 and 2006), the development of the lands near the Cascade Station did not occur until 2006. In 2006, Bechtel Enterprises sold their 120-acres share of the land to the Trammell Crow Company for development and at the same time, the city started a contract with Grubb & Ellis Company to develop another 36-acres of lands near the airport.
The Airport MAX Red Line trains operate from 5 am to midnight every day, with trains running every 15 minutes during peak hours and every 30 minutes during early morning and late evening hours. Light rail users can get from downtown Portland to the PDX airport in about 38 minutes, while the ride between the Gateway Transit Center and the PDX airport takes around 14 minutes.
4.1 Transportation Impacts
In 2009, the Airport station of the MAX Red Line served an average of 1.1million riders. Prior to the construction of the Airport MAX Red Line, travelers used Interstate 205 and local roads to access the PDX airport. Interstate 205 is the gateway to the Glenn Jackson Bridge on the Columbia River, with an exit for the PDX airport just before the bridge.
Immediately after the construction of the light rail extension, the Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) on the Interstate’s exit to Airport Way was reported as 139,500. In 2016, fewer than 70,000 vehicles per year used this exit. This 50% decrease in AADT demonstrates the positive effects of employing a transit option to an airport for reducing vehicular traffic on the adjacent roads.
During the past decade, the City of Portland has employed policies to encourage the use of light rail and increase the economic impacts of transit in the area around the stations. For example, the Employee Commute Options program requires large employers to reduce vehicle miles traveled per year, and parking spaces in the Central City are strictly managed to encourage more use of public transit.
4.2 Demographic, Economic & Land Use Impacts
In 1999, around the time the Airport MAX Red Line extension project started, the Portland City Council introduced the Cascade Station and Portland International Center Planning Districts. The plans for the development of these new districts allowed for development rights and provided design standards within the 120 acres of land between the Cascade and Mt Hood stations. These district plans projected more than 1,300,000 square feet of office space, 400,000 square feet of retail spaces, 1,200 hotel rooms, a gas station, and a theatre when completed.
The development of Cascade Station took more time than anticipated to get underway. Some interviewees believe that the economic downturn between 2001 and 2006 acted together with some “inappropriate transit-oriented development strategies” that did not allow big box stores to be part of the development. According to one interviewee, the development started in earnest after 2005, when new zoning laws for the area encouraged additions of big-box stores such as IKEA and Target. The new zoning laws changed the allowable office development to 1,115,000 square feet, and increasing the allowable retail spaces to 807,000 square feet, including up to three retailers taking more than 90,000 square feet.
In 2007, IKEA opened its 280,000 square-foot store, triggering more activity by other retailers and restaurants, together with office and hotel development. By 2011, a Target store, together with more than 40 smaller retail stores, restaurants, and services, as well as three hotels, had opened in the area around the Cascade station. These businesses created an estimated 3,392 jobs by the end of 2011 as a result of the Airport MAX Red Line extension project. Around 75% of these jobs are in offices. The remaining are retail jobs, with 55% at big box stores and 45% at smaller businesses.
The economic development of the area between the Cascade and Mt Hood stations can be attributed to many factors. The advanced planning for the extension of the light rail had started many years before the actual light rail line project began, and the necessary infrastructure for future development was provided, making the early opening of the Airport MAX Red Line (nine years earlier than expected) possible.
The change in zoning laws in 2005 attracted larger retail stores to the development area, which in turn triggered more retail development around the stations. After the Trammel Crow real estate company bought Bechtel’s share of the development project, the company started its efforts to sign big-box retailers onto the project and this affected the other developments as well. The big-box stores provided a positive business incentive for smaller retailers to come to the area.
Organization, Name, Position
Portland Development Commission, Jillian Detweiler, Development Manager
TriMet, Dave Unsworth, Director of Project Development & Permitting
Port of Portland, Tom Peterson, Chief Engineer
Case Study Developed by University of Maryland