TriMet MAX Tunnel

TriMet MAX Tunnel

United States

Metro and TriMet are exploring the feasibility of a MAX tunnel under downtown Portland so more people can get to all the places they want to faster.

All of the region’s light rail lines cross the river at the same place: the Steel Bridge. Built in 1912, the bridge slows down travel and impacts on-time performance. While TriMet is making investments in the Steel Bridge to help in the short-term, in the long-term a higher capacity solution is needed.


The tunnel would improve MAX travel time between the Lloyd District and Goose Hollow by up to 13 minutes, providing quick access to downtown Portland and to key destinations across the central city.

Faster transit attracts more riders. The tunnel would increase MAX Red and Blue Line ridership by up to 27% by 2035.
The tunnel would improve future MAX on-time performance to levels better than today, even with higher ridership, so people can count on getting to jobs, school, or appointments on time.

39% of regulated affordable housing in the region is within walking distance of MAX Blue Line stations. Shorter commute times mean people have access to more job opportunities and reducing dependence on cars lowers household transportation costs.

A tunnel would provide the region another option for crossing the river—generally tunnels have proven to be more resilient to earthquakes than bridges and surface systems.

The concept is based on a 2016 study and analysis done by TriMet staff and consultants that looked at the viability of improving transportation across the Steel Bridge, a major bottleneck for Portland commuters. The study, completed in the fall of 2017 after a year and a half of research, concluded that the most effective method of fixing the bottleneck and improving transit times would be by creating an underground tunnel for MAX lines, running roughly from Goose Hollow to Lloyd Center.

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