Jean and Walt
I am in awe of the tram. When I first heard about Portland's aerial tram, after the construction had started, I couldn't believe it. "No!" I said, imagining the reality of having a giant tower leaning over I-5, with cables stretching all the way up the southwest hillside, and little gondolas gliding up and down? "No way." But I was assured that, yes, Portland is indeed that progressive. There was a vision, and Portland found a way to make it happen. At the time, I still couldn't quite digest it. The whole look of the thing was so wonderfully "Popular Mechanics", and it just didn't seem financially viable, and....who actually goes ahead and makes an AERIAL TRAM anyway?
I guess it was quite the political firestorm, actually. City Commissioner Sam Adams --who, incidentally is my great highschool pal Mike Adams' BIG BROTHER ) pushed for the tram, even though it ended up costing tens of millions more than he expected. I've seen news stories on the folks who adamantly opposed the tram and they have nearly all changed their tune. The tram is a hit!
The tower does lean over I-5, and the cables do stretch all the way up the hill. The two gondolas, who were named by the public, are called "Jean" and "Walt". There were some suggestions like "Giant Silver Suppositories" that the city ignored. They are THE CUTEST GONDOLAS EVER. They were made in Switzerland and attached by swiss engineers. Evidently the swiss engineers are still here, making sure everyone is trained correctly. That is so sweet! The cars are beautiful, looking very 1030's World Expedition meets The Future. I crane my neck while driving, trying to catch a glimpse of one of them en route. Crossing the Ross Island Bridge takes you through a neighborhood very close beneath the cables. If you're there at just the right time, it might pass right over your car and you can wave to the people inside.
The tram, the bridges, the old highways and new waterfront esplanades, all fascinate me. There is such a history in Portland, and so much going on right now! If I couldn't live in Paris, London or New York, THIS is exactly the place I'd want to be.