PORTLAND – For the first time in history, TriMet asked for the public’s input to help name a new bridge and nearly 9,500 people sent in suggestions. But on Wednesday, the chair of the Bridge Naming Committee said the most popular name didn’t fit the committee’s criteria.
“First and foremost, this has never been a popularity contest,” said Chet Orloff, local historian and chair of TriMet’s Bridge Naming Committee.
According to Orloff, most of the submissions received did not fit the guidelines set by the committee. Criteria included the name’s historical significance, special cultural meaning and sound/ring/flow.
He singled out Kirk Reeves as a name that did not make the cut.
Reeves, a popular street musician who took his own life last year, was overwhelmingly the most popular choice, with around 5 percent of public vote. A Facebook page in support of the choice also has nearly 1,500 likes.
Proponents of the name suggested a Kirk Reeves bridge would bring attention to, and perhaps eradicate, Portland’s suicide problem.
“What will be Kirk’s historical and cultural significance to all of us in our region in 25, 50, 150 years?” Orloff asked. “While he certainly was an interesting individual … we just didn’t see that what he had done matched some of the other perspective names.”
He suggested Reeves instead be honored with a piece of public art.
“When it comes to naming such an icon as a regional bridge, I believe we all want a name that represents, in substantial and substantive ways, something to us all, historically, now and in the future,” he said.
Orloff said all of the names that made the final list -- including Abigail Scott Duniway, the only individual that made the cut -- were suggested by the public, but the committee did not take “sheer numbers” into account.
As for the final choice, Orloff said the public will have an opportunity to weigh in but the final decision must be unanimously approved by the Bridge Naming Committee.
The name of the Willamette River transit bridge will be announced in the spring.