Columbia River Gorge

State warns about cycling closures and work zone conditions through Columbia Gorge – UPDATED

by on May 11th, 2018 at 9:17 am

(Map: Oregon State Parks)

UPDATE: This post has been edited to reflect the fact that the State of Oregon has not technically “closed” the gorge to bicycling. People on bikes are still allowed to use I-84 (legally, from NE 238th east); but should be advised of work zone conditions. We regret any confusion the initial story caused.

The combination of fire clean-up and construction of new paths (ironically) adjacent I-84 has led to a decision to prohibit bicycling warnings for bicycle users through a key segment of the Columbia River Gorge this summer.

An Oregon State Parks employee emailed us about the news last night and urged us to spread the word so that no one gets stuck. “What I have found is there is no way to ride through the Gorge this year — not even for those willing to ride on the shoulder I-84.”[Read more…]

Plan for new path on Bridge of the Gods moves forward in search of funding

by on April 25th, 2018 at 10:33 am

This looks even more amazing if you’ve ever been across the bridge in its current form.
(Graphics: Port of Cascade Locks)

Existing conditions. Yikes!

A biking and walking path on the Bridge of the Gods took a big step forward last month.

In March, the Port of Cascade Locks and the Pacific Coast Trail Association (in cooperation with the United States Forest Service, Washington Department of Transportation, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, and City of Stevenson, WA) turned in a proposal (PDF) to the Federal Highway Administration requesting $934,000 for a planning study that would lead to the construction of the project.
[Read more…]

A 30 year-old vision for a carfree Historic Columbia River Highway

by on April 11th, 2018 at 4:15 pm

Imagine a carfree Historic Columbia River Highway… like Dave Wechner did almost 30 years ago.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

There’s been a steady trickle of news here on BikePortland in recent years from agencies and advocates who see a future for carfree traveling in the Columbia River Gorge. But it turns out the idea isn’t as futuristic as you might think.
[Read more…]

New website is latest piece in the carfree Columbia Gorge puzzle

by on April 9th, 2018 at 11:37 am

As the Portland region grows, so too has the popularity of the Columbia River Gorge. That’s a good thing; but not if too many people visit it by car.

Thankfully, Oregon’s tourism and transportation agencies understand this. Two summers ago, faced with congestion and overflowing parking lots, the Department of Transportation launched the Columbia Gorge Express bus service to encourage people to experience the Gorge without a car. That’s been such a huge success they’ve upgraded service and features each year.

Now comes another piece of the puzzle: ColumbiaGorgeCarfree.com, a website funded in part by a grant from Travel Oregon.

The site (still partly under construction) features carfree itineraries for popular Gorge destinations. As of now, there’s a turn-by-turn guide to hiking the popular Dog Mountain trail without a car. The itinerary comes with a detailed map and is based on biking and walking the four miles from Cascade Locks to the West End Transit (WET) shuttle bus stop on the Washington side of the river. If you can wait until May 25th, the Columbia Gorge Express will carry you and your bike from the Gateway Transit Center in east Portland to Cascade Locks.

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There’s also a very helpful page that lists all the buses and transit options that serve the Gorge.

This new website is the work of Heidi Beirle and a, “geeky team of transportation professionals.” Beirle is a carfree tourism consultant who also works with the West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce.

If you’re keen on going to the Gorge carfree this season, keep this website handy. And if you want to make bus service to the Gorge even better, please take the latest Columbia Gorge Express survey.

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

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More bike capacity among possible upgrades for ODOT’s Gorge Express bus service

by on October 16th, 2017 at 4:21 pm

Riders board the Columbia Gorge Express.
(Photos: ODOT)

Despite an early end to the season due to the Eagle Creek Fire, the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Columbia Gorge Express bus service was a hit once again this past summer season.

Jake Warr from ODOT’s Rail & Public Transit Division manages the program. He got in touch with us to share an update on this year’s usage stats and a photo of the newly upgraded buses.

“The second season of ODOT’s Columbia Gorge Express pilot service further confirmed that public transit to the Gorge is in high demand,” Warr said. “In fact, before the Eagle Creek Fire forced an early end to the season, the service was on pace to beat last year’s ridership totals. A few tweaks from the 2016 season helped accommodate and support this ridership growth, including the use of larger buses and the option to pay fares with cash.”

Here are the stats based on ticket sales and rider survey:[Read more…]

Here’s a handy guide to which Gorge trails have reopened after the fire

Michael Andersen (Contributor) by on October 3rd, 2017 at 11:15 am

Still from a KGW video assessing damage to the Columbia Gorge.

You’ve probably heard by now that despite last month’s conflagration in the Columbia River Gorge, Portlanders’ worst fears about the destruction didn’t come true.

But keeping track of where you can and can’t hike and bike through the Gorge right now is more complicated than usual. That’s where the Friends of the Columbia Gorge come in.

[Read more…]

“A pit in my stomach”: ODOT official shares latest on fire damage to Historic Columbia River Hwy

by on September 7th, 2017 at 9:34 am

The beautiful Oneonta Tunnel that just re-opened to biking and walking in 2009 isn’t looking so good right now.
(Photo: ODOT)

The Eagle Creek Fire is still raging in the Gorge and we’ve been reaching out to sources to find out how much impact it has had on the Historic Columbia River Highway and State Trail. Just one year ago we joined a big group of riders and dignitaries for a triumphant centennial celebration of the legendary road. And today it feels like it’ll be another hundred years before things are back to normal.

The good news is not all has been lost. Reports yesterday from fire officials were heartening. But what about those pictures of our dear Oneonta Tunnel engulfed in flames?! We’ve been as eager as you to know more.

This morning I heard back from Kristen Stallman, the outgoing Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Coordinator for the Oregon Department of Transportation. Stallman has worked on the Historic Highway project for years and her connection to it transcends her job title. Here’s what she had to say about where things stand today (emphases mine): [Read more…]

Reflections on the Eagle Creek Fire from ‘Gorge Getaways’ author Laura Foster

by on September 5th, 2017 at 2:36 pm

Eagle Creek in 2015.
(Photo by Debbie Asakawa)

Laura O. Foster is author of Portland Hill Walks and Columbia Gorge Getaways. She lives in the west hills above Highway 30 north of Sauvie Island. Last summer Foster shared tips on riding the ‘Trail of the Gods’ from Stevenson (WA) to Cascade Locks.

The Columbia Gorge. Three Days Ago. Today.

1:00 a.m. today: The smell of burning forest punched through an already-uneasy sleep. I stepped outside, sniffing, looking through the dark for flames, afraid our land was on fire.
[Read more…]

Ash from Eagle Creek Fire adds to poor air quality in Portland: Is it OK to ride?

by on September 5th, 2017 at 8:03 am

cycling bad air.jpg

A woman wears a mask while cycling on North Vancouver Avenue this morning.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

“Rode today with a mask, but some eye protection is needed. My eyes started to itch after a while.”
— Alex Fallenstedt via Twitter

Larch Mountain, Crown Point, Cascade Locks — to people who love to ride bicycles, these places are more than cherished icons of Oregon’s beauty. They are ride destinations and inspirations.

The Eagle Creek Fire that’s still burning out of control in the Columbia River Gorge is having an emotional impact on many of us. People who live and work in the Gorge are struggling right now. And for those of us with emotional bonds to those places forged by hours in the saddle we can only watch in horror as the damage spreads. Even if we could put it out of our minds, the ash falling in Portland makes it impossible to ignore.

That ash has mixed with bad air quality (at hazardous levels last I checked) has many of you wondering if it’s safe to bike in the city. The answer is yes, but…
[Read more…]

Riding ODOT’s Columbia Gorge “Not-So” Express Bus

Adam by on July 10th, 2017 at 4:26 pm

“The new service has potential but unfortunately misses the mark at nearly every step of the way.”

This past weekend, my family and I decided to try out ODOT’s new Columbia Gorge Express bus and spend a few hours at Multnomah Falls. After our experience, I unfortunately cannot personally recommend this service.

We decided to take the 12:55 pm bus from Gateway TC. Getting to Gateway car-free already meant a bus and a train from where we live. Unfortunately, our Columbia Gorge Express bus was 20 minutes late – not arriving until 1:15 and departing around 1:20. Tickets are purchased pre-paid but don’t actually guarantee you a spot on the bus. After a minor hassle with the ticket checker about the tickets being purchased for the wrong day (the website makes you pick a day, but specifies the ticket is in fact good for any day in the current season), we were aboard.

The bus first made a stop at Rooster Rock park to pick up and drop off passengers. There was not room for everyone, so many were left waiting for the next bus. After this ten minute stop, we were finally on our way to the falls. Upon coming up to the falls, our bus driver informed us that since the parking lot at Multnomah Falls was full, that we would not be able to exit the highway here, as there would be no room for the bus to turn around. We instead had to make a 20 minute detour to the next exit, get off the highway, then get back on the highway so that we were facing the correct direction.

Boarding the bus back was a confusing mess. We headed to the bus stop area, only to be informed by an ODOT employee that the line was further back. Schedules are posted at the stop but don’t bother using them, since the bus was nowhere near on any semblance of a schedule all day. We waited for 15 minutes before boarding the bus (that was either 15 minutes early or 35 minutes late, depending on how you read the schedule). Again, you are not guaranteed a spot on the bus back, so on busy days you might have to wait a good hour before getting on a bus. On the way back we predictably got stuck in traffic on I-84. Overall, we spent a total of four hours in transit, door-to-door, due to the bus’ lateness and detour, and TriMet’s infrequent Sunday schedule. Perhaps if you are staying somewhere overnight, the hassles might be worth it, but for a day trip, the bus was not very convenient.

The new service has potential but unfortunately misses the mark at nearly every step of the way. It was late, slow, and not well signed. If ODOT is serious about continuing this popular service, they should make the following changes:

    1. Adhere to the damn schedule. 20 minutes late is completely unacceptable for a bus that runs every 30 minutes. Either build in traffic time to the timetables or find some way to improve on-time performance.
    2. Add a dedicated bus turnaround area. The fact that a full parking lot at the falls caused the bus to make a 20 minute detour is unacceptable. This is not going to convince people not to drive and is yet another example of caving to auto interests over all else. Just remove a few parking spaces if needed. Or maybe start charging for parking to better manage demand.
    3. Better signage and waiting area at Multnomah Falls. The waiting area is a dingey pedestrian underpass under I-84. A higher-quality shelter with daylight visible would be welcome here.
    4. Integrate Hop Fastpass. Having to purchase your tickets separately just seems so arcane. We now have a really nice unified transit account for our region. This should be a priority in the next year not just for ODOT, but for all agencies operating in the Portland metro area. This should especially apply to the agencies that opted to secede from TriMet: SMART, SAM, etc.

While I welcome this forward-thinking idea (for a highway building department, anyway) to address traffic concerns at Oregon’s most popular destination, it seems to me that this service is still very much an afterthought by ODOT. If we are serious about getting people out of their cars, then this service falls flat. Unfortunately, the drawbacks don’t outweigh the benefits. When the service expands to Hood River next year (in my opinion, a far more useful destination that I do plan on taking advantage of) I hope that ODOT will take the time to make these simple improvements to this service.