TriMet MAX Could Set New Closure Record: Return Of Service Hampered By Storms
PORTLAND, Ore. — TriMets’ Green Line light train rails have not been running for three days, since Monday, January 15. Crews are hard at work on the ice and fallen trees on the tracks, but storms are making their work challenging.
With another winter storm on the horizon according to the weather forecast, it seems unlikely that the service will resume until Wednesday, but TriMet has not indicated when the rail bill be back in service. Suspended until further notice on Saturday at 2:45 pm, it remains unclear when the trains will be on the tracks in the Portland area as it faces brutal storms with snow, wind, and freezing temperatures.
MAX trains have had to shut down for one or two days in the past because of the weather, including the record-high heat experienced in 2021. TriMet spokesperson Roberta Alstadt said that the agency’s records show the current rail shutdown to be the longest suspension of service on this line.
The section of the line on the west side between the Beaverton and Sunset transit centers has been hardest hit. According to Alstadt, the crews are also working on clearing ice that has been packed onto the rails. This is critical to avoid a derailment similar to the one that occurred during the January 2017 winter storm.
Learning from their experience with storms, TriMet trims trees, but the current storms with their high winds have brought entire trees crashing down onto the track, causing extensive damage to the overhead wires as well as support equipment.
MAX substations are also affected by the large-scale power outages as this interrupts the power transmitted through the overhead lines, and also the heaters on the track switches. Alstadt confirmed that heaters must remain functional to prevent the cold from freezing the track switches.
While she confirmed that crews are actively engaged in restoring the MAX service before Tuesday’s expected freezing rain, Altstadt said TriMet cannot speculate on how long trains could still stay suspended. She did not indicate when the MET lines may reopen. Should the crews manage to get the trains running on this line, it would be feasible for them to operate in the freezing rain, but the trains cannot operate when there are power outages.
As crews are working around the clock to clear the MAX tracks and fix damaged equipment, some Portland residents may have seen a MAX train running on Monday. Another TriMet spokesperson, Tyler Graf, confirmed that the few trains on the track are being used to test the system, but no riders can be onboard yet.
Buses are expected to run on their usual Sunday schedules during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday, but TriMet told passengers they should also expect long delays for the service, with weather-related detours. Using chains, the bus speeds are limited to 25 m.p.h.
By Monday afternoon there was no time set for resumption of the MAX line as a half inch of ice was expected on Tuesday in Portland. Train passengers can check TriMet’s website for updates, but TriMet encouraging people to avoid traveling until Tuesday’s storm has subsided and the tracks are running.