Last week, TriMet announced four finalists in their naming campaign for the new Caruthers street multi-modal bridge over the Willamette River. Over 9,000 entries were submitted. Overwhelmingly, the name ‘Working Kirk Reeves’ was chosen – some 850 times – in honor of the late legendary street performer of the same name. In typical dismissal of public opinion, TriMet refused to include the most popular suggestion among their four finalists.
Perhaps they worried naming the crossing after a man who succumbed to depression and chose to take his own life could potentially send a negatively inspirational message. Portland already has a poor track record when it comes to bridge-jumpers. If this connection is the reason TriMet decided to cancel a democratic naming process, we’ll likely never know, as their press statement fell short of acutely explaining the selection process. It would be truly disappointing if TriMet refused to honor this man’s memorable life purely for his choice to end it.
So now we’re presented with four finalists: Wy’East, Tillicum, Cascadia, and Abigail Scott Duniway. Other notable mentions included in the full list were Beverly Cleary, Lisa Simpson, Bifröst, and the ‘F*** CARS BRIDGE’ (I promise this wasn’t me).
Much debate on social media has been made over the officially sanctioned options. Whether the public gets to actually choose the winner matters little at this point, the naming process has already proven to be a sham. TriMet easily could have gotten this right, but they failed. What might have been positive PR for the beleaguered transit agency has already been tainted.
The great thing about Portland, however, is that our nicknames legendarily overshadow official titles. Our city is rich with delightfully descriptive nomenclature: Felony Flats, the Jail Blazers, Devil’s Triangle, Big Pink, Lake No-Negro, Benson Bubblers, the Pearl, 3 Groins in a Fountain. Even Portland itself owns a wealth of aliases like Stumptown, Rose City, Rip City, Little Beruit, among others.
We can call the bridge whatever we want. If Portlanders give a damn enough, who knows, maybe there’ll be a peoples’ ribbon cutting ceremony to counter the city’s event come September 2015. If so, the name ‘Kirk Reeves Memorial Bridge’ just might stick. I hope it does. In their online poll, I voted for this as the most fitting name for the new bridge, and I plan on riding my bike over the Working Kirk for many years to come.
View the bridge live cam and time lapse video HERE.