"The committee spent a tremendous amount of time and dedication to select a name that speaks to our past, our future and the importance of transit connecting our community," TriMet's General Manager Neil McFarlane said.
TriMet said the 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."
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."