I can’t believe I’m typing this, but only one section — a mere 1.6 miles! — of the 73-mile Historic Columbia River Highway project remains unfunded.
Yesterday the Oregon Department of Transportation released an online open house to share more about the three remaining segments of the ambitious project that seeks to re-restore the grandeur of the Historic Highway and make it whole after it was partially destroyed and abandoned when Interstate 84 was built. Currently 68 of the 73 miles between Troutdale and The Dalles are rideable and that includes 13 miles of carfree paved paths.
Of the three segments that remain, two of them already and are fully funded and ready to build. From Viento State Park east to just beyond Mitchell Point, ODOT has excited plans in store.
At Viento State Park, ODOT plans to build a new gravel trail and hiker/biker campsites. According to their National Scenic Area permit, a new hiker/biker camping area at the southern section of the park will include eight new gravel tent pads specifically for visitors without cars. These sites will include “bike pods” and four of the eight sites will have three-sided shelters. As we reported in 2014, bike pods can include electrical outlets, bike repair stands, and gear lockers.
Plans also call for 2.7 miles of new carfree path, two new bridges and major upgrades to the restroom facilities and Viento trailhead.
The additions to Viento State Park will open up exciting bike-camping possibilities. The other popular bike-camping spot in the Gorge is Ainsworth State Park, which is about 35 miles east of downtown Portland. The new campsites at Viento would be another 22 miles east.
ODOT plans to begin construction on the Viento to Mitchell Point segment in 2022.
ODOT has also released new photos of a new carfree tunnel through Mitchell Point that will break ground early next year. Mitchell Point was an iconic section of the Historic Highway when it first built in 1915. It was completely destroyed in 1966 when crews blasted the hillside to widen I-84. The new design will recreate the five arched windows the tunnel was famous for and the tunnel itself will be 655-feet long. ODOT expects the project to be completed by 2023.
The final, 1.6-mile section from Ruthton Point to Hood River is still under design and ODOT is looking for $35-40 million to get it built.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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