The good news? TriMet is in the final stretches of completing its “A Better Red” project, which will bring some major changes to the MAX Red Line by the end of the year. The bad news: Finishing up construction for “A Better Red” entails a major, six-week disruption to MAX light rail service across most of TriMet’s service area, in Portland and beyond.

From Sunday, January 14 to February 25, service on MAX Blue and Green Lines will be significantly limited. Blue Line service will be suspended between Northeast 7th and East 102nd Avenues, and the Green Line will only operate between Southeast Main Street and Clackamas Town Center. Red Line train service will be entirely suspended during this time. (North-South travelers, rejoice: The Yellow/Orange Lines will not be impacted!)

A map of the upcoming MAX service disruptions. Note the absence of the Red Line. TriMet

The “A Better Red” project, set for completion this year, will extend MAX Red Line service to 10 stations west of the Beaverton Transit Center into Hillsboro. It will also add a second track to sections of the Red Line between the Gateway Transit Center in Northeast Portland near I-205, and Portland International Airport, separating airport-bound MAX trains from trains headed in the opposite direction.

Right now, the Red Line runs on a single track on two sections near Gateway and PDX, forcing trains traveling in either direction to take turns and creating bottlenecks for several MAX lines. Because the Green and Blue Lines share a track with the Red Line near Gateway, service on those lines will also be impacted by the upcoming construction. 

Over the next six weeks, TriMet will operate shuttle buses at the impacted stations to curb the disruption, but the transit agency has warned people the shuttles will be busy, and passengers should “consider using alternative modes of transportation during the project, including TriMet’s regular bus service.” Given the degree of the disruption, traveling around Portland by transit this winter— especially to and from the airport— could take much longer and involve more transfers than usual. 

Another concern: Bad weather. Portlanders have long relied on MAX trains to get around during snow and ice storms, which can shut down city streets for days. Though it’s still too far in the future to be sure, the forecast this weekend calls for snow and very cold weather. Tyler Graf, a TriMet public information officer, told the Mercury the transit agency is preparing for the possibility of snow and “will be prepared to chain our buses, including shuttle buses, if conditions call for it.” 

While working on another segment of its “A Better Red” project last year, TriMet shut down Red Line service between Gateway Transit Center and PDX for four months. Graf said there will be one more “minor disruption” to MAX service later this winter as construction finishes up, though details on what that will entail are not yet available.