Federal budget bills include funding for ‘signature trails,’ Eagle Creek Staircase

Eagle Creek Staircase today. (Google Streetview)

On the same day Portland officials learned about nearly a half-billion dollars in federal grants for projects in the Rose Quarter area, trail advocates statewide were also cheering. That’s because on Friday, the U.S. Senate voted in favor of several appropriations bills that included funding for three of Oregons “signature trails” projects.

As BikePortland reported back in August, Senator and Chair of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, Jeff Merkley (D-OR), included $1.3 million in the FY24 Senate Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for three projects that were prioritized by trail advocates statewide: restorations and improvements in the Wenaha sections of the Blue Mountains Trail; new connectors in the Oakridge-Westfir Mountain Bike Trail System, and a detailed planning analysis needed to replace the Eagle Creek Staircase on the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail.

All three of the projects are now funded. Below are project descriptions from the nonprofit Oregon Trails Coalition:

  • $300,000 for the Blue Mountains Trail will restore access to the beloved Wenaha River Trail #3106 in the Umatilla National Forest in an area highly impacted by the Grizzly Bear Complex Fire. This [15+ mile] trail restoration project will close a major gap in the Blue Mountains Trail.
  • $506,923  for the Oakridge-Westfir Mountain Bike Center will construct the Cloverpatch Connector [2.2 miles] and Fugrass Connection trails that will create connected loops in the current mountain bike system and aid in community fire recovery in the Willamette National Forest and nearby communities.
  • $400,000 for Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail will provide an alternatives analysis for replacing Eagle Creek Stairs and making this Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area trail segment accessible to users of all ages and abilities.

We are especially excited about the Eagle Creek Staircase project. You might recall that this 1996 infrastructure relic has been a major weak link in the Historic Highway State Trail project for many years. Last summer national disability rights activist Juliette Rizzo visited the stairs in a bid to raise awareness for their replacement.

ODOT officials have said replacing the stairs with a ramp, a project estimated to cost $50 million, will have to wait until all other sections of the State Trail are completed. This new planning money will make the project shovel-ready and greatly increase its chances for getting a construction grant sooner rather than later.


See the PDF below more details on all three funded projects.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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A J Zelada
2 months ago

This is particularly exciting as this money will enable some design/pre-engineering assesmement for the Eagle Creek Staircase barrier. This in turn will allow to monies to be applied for in order to construct the determined solution to a long time ADA Barrier along the car free bike/pedestrian of the Historic Columbia River Highway Trail. The stair case was built in 1996 after the historic Americans with Disabilities Act passed in 1990. Creating a remedy for this accessibility barrier has a been a long time goal but has always been pushed down the list of needs. So this effort by Stephanie Noll and the Oregon Trails Coalition with Senator Merkley’s office is much appreciated. Thankfully, the other bike/pedestrian trail components of the Historic Columbia River HIghway Trail respect the 1990 5% ADA required grade for pathways. Ironically, this 5% grade was the expected abilities of automobiles in1916-1922. AJZ

Jeff S
Jeff S
2 months ago
Reply to  AJ Zelada

Glad to see this is being addressed. Do you happen to know how ODoT was able to build this in non-compliance with ADA? (the terrain is daunting for sure…)

Maria (Bicycle Kitty)
Maria (Bicycle Kitty)
2 months ago

I can’t wait to never climb that staircase (on the Coumbia Gorge trai) with my bike again!
I wish the Cazadera Trail bridge was on this list. I am hoping to one day avoid riding on the terrifying Amsigger Road, which is a necessity to get to points south like Faraday and Milo McIver. The other option is to cross the Clackamas River and ride on narrow roads with no shoulders and big trucks.

Frank Selker
Frank Selker
2 months ago

Wow – $50 million to replace the staircase? Please don’t do that – use the money for something with more impact, like maybe 50 $1m improvements to bike trails and road safety for bikes in town, or honestly, just about anything else. I say that as an enthusiastic cyclist. Other projects sound good.