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Sneak peek at new carfree section of Historic Columbia River Highway

Posted by on July 24th, 2019 at 10:41 am

We cannot wait to ride this.
(Photos: ODOT)


In just 10 days, the Oregon Department of Transportation will tear the wrapping off a very impressive new section of the Historic Columbia River Highway. At 3.3 miles long, the $19 million project will leave us just five miles away from reconnecting this historic road that broke ground in 1916.

The new section begins just east of Cascade Locks and will provide walkers and rollers a carfree path around Shellrock Mountain. This has historically been the most unpleasant and dangerous gap in the entire Historic Highway where riders would have to pedal on a shoulder of Interstate 84 with people driving big trucks and RVs by at high speeds. The new path from Wyeth to Lindsey Creek will offer a much different experience.

A trail dedication event is scheduled for next Saturday August 3rd with a group bike ride led by Portland Bicycling Club leaving from Cascade Locks at 9:00 am. Unfortunately I’ll be out of town and can’t make it; but ODOT was kind enough to offer a few new photos for a sneak peek…

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Construction on the next piece of the puzzle — the Mitchell Point Crossing — is funded and set to begin next summer. After that, ODOT says there’s only 1.6 miles left to finally reconnect the entire 73-mile route between Troutdale and The Dalles. Learn more about the project here.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

20 Comments
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    MTW July 24, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    ” After that, ODOT says there’s only 1.6 miles left to finally reconnect the entire 73-mile route between Troutdale and The Dalles.”

    This car-free segment seems pretty cool, but I followed the link to the ODOT site and it looks like most of that 73 miles is shared with autos. I’ve never ridden out that way, how is the experience when sharing the road with autos?

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 24, 2019 at 1:12 pm

      Yes there are a lot of miles that are shared with auto users (I need to calculate the exact breakdown). I’ve ridden it a lot and everything east of Women’s Forum viewpoint is very chill. Out that way it’s such a tourist road that people drive slowly and I’ve never had a problem. It’s also so narrow that people aren’t tempted to pass unless it’s very clear and safe to do so. There is also very little to now residential or commercial destinations on the roads… so no commuters or angry locals to worry about.

      Now.. West of Women’s forum is another story. That part has the occasional rude people who think they own the road. Not very common, but I have had people pass unsafely there and there’s a history of people in Corbett putting down nails and tacks. Overall, that’s just like a few miles and the vast majority is fine!

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        al July 24, 2019 at 3:41 pm

        Is there a specific road/section of Corbett to be avoided? I’d like to start riding out that way, but will go out of my way to avoid that sort of nonsense.

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          Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 24, 2019 at 4:37 pm

          You can never completely avoid things that are totally impossible to predict and very rare in general. I don’t think you should avoid anything in that area. Crazy and mean people can pop up anywhere! I’ve never had any trouble riding through Corbett. In fact, it’s a very beautiful place to be! Especially the general store which has all sorts of yummy things (and a porta-potty outside!). Have fun out there and enjoy the riding.

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          Middle of The Road Guy July 26, 2019 at 10:22 am

          There are a few ways to avoid the bad sections like taking Hurlburt and Knierem road up to Women’s Forum or Hurlburt/Louden up past the Larch Mtn Road gate and back down the Historic HW…but the climbing is steeper.

          Woodard to Mershon also offers a way around one of the busiest sections…but again, nice climb.

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        Douglas K July 24, 2019 at 7:58 pm

        I haven’t tried that historic highway, but it looks really intimidating to me. Steep climb, no shoulders. I’m probably not the only potential rider scared off by sharing a road like that with cars.

        I’d like to see ODOT build a fairly level, car-free connection from Troutdale to Multnomah Falls someday.

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        Austin July 25, 2019 at 7:04 am

        On Saturday on the way to the Gorge Pedal, we were driving on 84 (with bikes on the back of the car), following a car that also had bikes on a bike rack. A giant pickup coal-rolled both of us, near the Corbett exit/entrance, of course!

        I’ve been coal-rolled while riding (who hasn’t?) but being coal-rolled while driving was a first!

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        Chris I July 25, 2019 at 7:53 am

        “occasional rude”?

        How about “sociopathic a-holes”. That has been my experience.

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          CaptainKarma July 25, 2019 at 11:25 am

          If you are coal-rolled, get a plate number and video if possible and submit it to DEQ. They want to know. A police report would be appropriate so there’s a record in case someone is injured or dies in the future related to these individuals.

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    Shimran George July 24, 2019 at 1:18 pm

    In general, I found most of the shared areas to be relatively low traffic, the segments to and from Vista Point being the exception (both from Corbett and to Multnomah Falls). It would be nice if the entire stretch was bike path like this new section, but I will take what I can get! This new section looks amazing and love the detail work!

    I am really looking forward to the Mitchell Point construction as it will provide a more dignified way of riding into Hood River. Currently the last 5 miles from Starvation Creek into Hood River are just riding the I-84 shoulder, a little anticlimactic for me, but better than nothing!

    I also have heard from a commenter here the staircases will be eliminated in future iterations! It is not fun/slightly dangerous to go down stairs with a heavy touring bike. And the wheel wells are a nice feature, but don’t account for panniers!

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 24, 2019 at 1:20 pm

      yeah those stairs are a terribly bad joke and extremely disrespectful to all users. They’re a deal-breaker for so many people and ODOT needs to find a solution immediately! I’m glad there’s a group of folks agitating around it. I need to do a story on this issue I know. Will work on it. Another big issue are the many bumps on the paved section between John Yeon Trailhead and Cascade Locks. That section is relatively new so it’s unfortunate that more care wasn’t taken in the construction. They need to be smoothed out because they’re a major hazard.

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        austin July 25, 2019 at 7:11 am

        Those stairs are no joke! On Saturday (Gorge Pedal) I was surprised when we got to them. I was on a heavy tandem & trailer with my kids, and it was a haul for sure.

        There was a couple at the bottom of the stairs on a pretty amazing tandem recumbent and cargo trailer, and they were just stuck. I offered to help, but they said the recumbent was just too heavy.

        On the way back, there were a few Gorge Pedal people helping folks up/down the stairs, and that was pretty great – but those steps have probably ruined a few good rides for folks who weren’t ready for them.

        What would be the alternative there? some sharp switchbacks?

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          Chris I July 25, 2019 at 8:03 am

          It could be done by cutting into the hillside, and gently dropping alongside the freeway exit. Alternatively, a long concrete structure ramp along the same path would work. It’s quite frustrating, because they could have done it as part of the original project. It would have cost about 2x that of the stairs they built.

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    Caleb July 24, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    Is the new section rideable now or is it closed until the official opening? We were considering going out this Friday.

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    Tim July 24, 2019 at 4:23 pm

    Mitchell Point is going to be the “wow” section, but it will take some time to complete.

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    Johnny Bye Carter July 25, 2019 at 2:44 pm

    That looks as unpleasant as the I-205 path: right next to a freeway with no sound barrier. Doesn’t look like they left a lot of room to plant trees to absorb the sound.

    And that bridge is hilariously steep. They really couldn’t have spent a few more bucks on it to make it longer and decrease the grade?

    I want to ride on it just to experience it. I don’t think I’ll want to ride on it twice.

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      Middle of The Road Guy July 26, 2019 at 10:24 am

      Bose Headphones and an e-bike.

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    Charles Ross July 30, 2019 at 5:55 pm

    Have all sections closed as a result of the fire two years ago been reopened? I’ve pedaled out as far as Maryhill Museum and had the impression that much of the burn area along the Old Columbia River Highway is still no-go. Thanks for any info you can provide. C

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    GlowBoy July 31, 2019 at 9:23 am

    This new trail section is wonderful, and will open up a lot more great riding options in the Gorge. I’m absolutely excited to go out there and ride it first chance I get. But I’m still going to get to the gorge by car, or possibly by Gorge Express if the scheduling works out.

    For me, as much as I enjoy riding *in* the gorge, biking out *to* the gorge through Corbett is a No Way, No How. I’ve heard of too many incidents on that part of the route.

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    Vans July 31, 2019 at 1:03 pm

    The whole trail is open, has been for quite some time.

    No part of it is that hard to do, the constraints of this new section were nothing short of monumental, we are very lucky this got done, no way this is bad in any way. Challenging in some parts, probably, worth the effort, absolutely.

    Many of us take the Gorge for granted, nobody will have something this epic but us when its done.

    None of the share the road sections are untenable with normal where with all, proper vigilance and patience as should be at all times anyway.

    That being said it can be “fun” when its backed up bumper to bumper near the falls, then its just like city riding at rush hour with tourists instead.

    I’ve never had a problem no matter where, when or what direction I’m going.

    I love the whole thing, period.

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