Man drives through, breaks part of new parking lot gate at Multnomah Falls

MULTNOMAH FALLS, Ore. - A new, supposedly safe, solution to parking gridlock at Multnomah Falls has some drivers creating a dangerous situation on I-84. It's the same dangerous situation ODOT was trying to prevent when it installed gates to close the eastbound parking lot at Exit 31 when it's full. Some drivers are confused about how the gates work.

This is the second weekend the gates have been in use. Saturday afternoon there were a couple of incidents involving the gates, but most people either drove by or were able to drive in the lot and park because the gates were open.

One man drove through one of the gates and broke it as he approached Exit 31. The gate is flipped from the road to a grassy area, and part of the gate is broken off. He told KATU News "there wasn't enough time" for him to see the gate.

Before that crash happened, another car drove around the first three gates and stopped in front of the fourth gate. Two other cars followed. The drivers intended to wait there until the gate opened.

A woman named Jennifer from Portland told KATU News reporter Hillary Lake she "knowingly" drove around the gates "because there was enough space for us to safely be on one side of the road, so we figured we would wait for someone to leave." Cars were speeding by as she waited for the gate to open. She drove away after a few minutes.

The first car in line though was a man visiting from Alabama named Joseph Coody.

"They told me to take exit 31 and that's it right there," said Coody.

He sat in his car almost speechless that the gates were closed. He didn't know what to do or how to get into the parking lot so he could go see the waterfall.

That's exactly what ODOT doesn't want to happen. The gates close when there are 15 spots left; the parking lot has 150 spots. The gates re-open when 30 spots become available.

Haven Whitaker of Wilsonville said he doesn't know what he would have done if the gates had been down when he arrived at the parking lot.

"I would have freaked. I would have thought what am I supped to do, back out on to the freeway," said Whitaker.
While the gates are closed, drivers are supposed to drive by and either get off at the next exit and come back to the parking lot driving west, or come back to the lot at a later time.

There are warning signs on the eastbound side of the interstate before Exit 31 that indicate when the parking lot is full and the gates are closed.

ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton tells KATU News that ODOT expects drivers to pay attention to the signs, and the gates, and to not stop at the gates when they're down.

"It doesn't seem practical. It seems like it would be a traffic hazard rather than a help," said Whitaker.