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An Innovative Public-private Venture Pays Off In Portland

Portland, OR - September 12, 2001 It’s hard to tell which is more impressive about the new Airport MAX that began operations here on Monday - the gleaming new light-rail system, or the innovative public-private venture that financed it.In any case, Airport MAX is a showcase for the varied expertise of Bechtel. The line was designed and built by Bechtel Infrastructure after Bechtel Enterprises joined with local government agencies to create a financing plan that required no money from new property taxes, state general funds, or federal appropriations.

Airport MAX - the first light-rail line serving an airport on the West Coast - carries passengers between downtown and Portland International Airport, where it stops just a few steps from the baggage claim area and close to ticket counters. The 5.5-mile (8.9-kilometer) trip takes about 38 minutes and costs $1.55, making it the most economical way to travel between Portland and the airport And it’s convenient: The single-car trains, with low floors that allow easy access for luggage, run every 15 minutes between 5 a.m. and 11:30 p.m.

"We are now known not only as the city that works, but also as the city that moves," Mayor Vera Katz said Monday during a ceremony at the new airport station.

Construction on Airport MAX began in June 1999 and included four new stations. It has been a model project for all concerned. "From the standpoint of relationships, value-delivered, teamwork, and safety, this has been as good as projects get - a real winner," says Walker Kimball, Bechtel’s project manager during much of construction.

Current Project Manager Amjad Bangash said construction of the new line could not have been completed in less than 2 ½ years without "phenomenal support" from both the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District and the local agencies. He also noted with pride the exceptional safety record established by the project, and the fact that it earned STAR status in the Oregon Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s Voluntary Protection Program for safety excellence.

The new line, which cost $125 million, was made possible by a partnership of Bechtel Enterprises (the financing and development arm of Bechtel), Tri-Met, the Port of Portland, the City of Portland, and the Portland Development Commission. Bechtel contributed some $28 million to the cost in exchange for rights to develop a business, shopping, and hotel complex on 120 acres (48 hectares) adjacent to the airport.

Tri-Met estimates that Airport MAX - which connects to the existing regional light-rail and bus network - will carry 2,300 passengers a day one year from now.