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The Portland Aerial Tram was constructed in 2006 and began operation in 2007, offering a solution to the limited accessibility of Marquam Hill. The construction of the Tram was not without resistance, from concerns from residents in the affected areas to ever increasing construction time and costs. The Tram connects the South Waterfront with OHSU's main campus on Marquam Hill, collapsing the distance between the two spaces. The Tram is not only a feat of engineering, but an iconic Portland landmark and one of only two commuter aerial tramways in the country. The City of Portland owns the Tram and is responsible for maintenance and OHSU oversees its operation.

Poster celebrating the first launch of the Portland Aerial Tram in 2007.

Black and white architectural style sketch depicts the Portland Aerial Tram on a tall wire with OHSU buildings in the background. Text reads: "Portland Aerial Tram. Lift-Off: February 27-28, 2007"

Preview of the tram from a 2005 PowerPoint.

Computer generated image of clear tram floating in front of basic city skyline on a blue background. Text reads: Portland bubble.

Aric Dutelle, "Back to school tram ride," 2018.

Color photograph depicts small metal tram cabin with many trees in near background and tall buildings and river valley in background.

Prior to the construction of the Tram, the Marquam Hill campus was only accessible via two tight and winding, two-lane forest roads. The Tram was the solution to this limitation, allowing the hilltop campus to flourish. An international design competition took place for the Tram, with the Zurich- and Los Angeles-based firm Angelil/Graham/Pfenninger/Scholl Architecture winning. There was significant community resistance to the tram, especially in regards to increasing construction time and operation costs. The construction of the tram was predicted to cost $15.5 million but ended up totaling $57 million. Two tram cabins operate out of the station, named Jean and Walt, after Jean Richardson, the first female engineering graduate from Oregon State University, and Dr. Walter Reynolds, the first African American to graduate from OHSU (then University of Oregon Medical School). Both graduated from their respective programs in 1949. The cabins were made in Switzerland and travel 3,300 linear feet from the Waterfront to the Hill. Each travels at 22 miles per hour and the ride lasts about four minutes. Though initially controversial, the Tram has become an iconic Portland landmark. It even had a MySpace page back in the late 2000s!

Barker, Brian and KATU Web Staff. "Tram ride could set you back $4." KATU News, January 10, 2007.

Durham, Mark. "Portland Thinks Outside the Traffic Grid." Wired Magazine, January 27, 2007.

Northern Architecture. "LA firm wins competition for Portland aerial tram." Last updated March 7, 2022.

"Portland Aerial Tram: About."

Subject File: Transportation: Tram. Historical Collections & Archives, OHSU Library.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Historical Image Collection: Tram, Historical Collections & Archives, OHSU Library.

Office of President Peter Kohler Records, 2010-014. Historical Collections & Archives, OHSU Library.

OHSU Digital Collections,