Upcoming I-84 lane closure for construction of Oregon's 'State Trail'

Workers along Interstate 84 work on the Columbia River Gorge Historic State Trail. Here they are building a viaduct at Summit Creek (KATU Photo)

Starting next week and until mid-May, the right lane of Interstate 84 will be closed from milepost 51 to 54 for construction of the Columbia River Gorge Historic State Trail, which has been in the works for decades.

The trail will reconnect Historic Highway 30 between Troutdale and The Dalles using the existing two-lane highway and by constructing new segments which skirt I-84.

Much work has been accomplished since the beginning of the project in 1987. Sixty-five of the original 73 miles of the Historic Columbia River Highway are used for travel either by car or by foot and bicycle.

Three miles between Wyeth and Lindsey Creek Bench Cut are under construction. The five remaining miles between Viento State Park and Ruthton Park will challenge geo-tech engineers because of steep terrain, lack of space and the rock properties.

"It's loose angular rock," Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area Coordinator Terra Lingley said, "and we all know gravity works in the Gorge, so that rock continuously moves."

At Wyeth, the State Trail separates from Historic Highway 30. A new bridge is under construction. Crews squeezed the trail between I-84 and Shellrock Mountain. As it nears Summit Creek, crews are constructing a viaduct, (bridge over land), that rises 40 feet above the freeway on a series of arched columns. When the section is complete, pedestrians and cyclists can enjoy a 12-foot wide paved path with extensive views of the Gorge.

Further east, the State Trail drifts away from the freeway through a forested area known as Mossy Road. Once covered by a thick layer of duff and moss, this short section offers plentiful scenic and wildlife attractions. The moss was removed and the road surface will be repaved. The trail then winds the corner at Lindsey Creek Bench Cut and rejoins an existing segment of trail.

Project leaders are still working to secure funding for the final five miles.

Mitchell Point Crossing is a giant hurtle.

The Oregon Department of Transportation says engineers are boring holes into the rock wall to study rock properties and how the rocks are moving.

Arthur Babitz, former Hood River mayor, now Advisory Committee member for the project, says engineers have a few options in getting passed Mitchell Point: bore a lengthy tunnel or bore and construct several tunnels and viaducts.

When the highway was completed in 1922, it was considered an engineering feat. Babitz says the State Trail may be in the same category.

"The original engineers of the Columbia River Highway very much believed that transportation was more than just getting from point A to B," Babitz said. "I think this [trail] is a celebration of that concept."

Oregon legislators directed ODOT to reconstruct the Historic Highway in 1986.

Construction of the trial is expected to cost many millions of dollars, but project leaders believe the trail will become a world-class destination, pedaling much needed tourism dollars to small towns in the Gorge.

"People will be able to fly into PDX," Babitz said, "take their bike and go to Troutdale, to start the trail and spend days out here, taking a section at a time, visiting each of the communities along the way."

You can follow the project's progress here.

The State Trail is expected to be complete sometime between 2020 and 2022.

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