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Highway is closed between Southeast 232nd Drive and Southeast Tong Road because of landslides

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Contractors work to stabilize the hillside between Southeast 232nd Drive and Southeast Tong Road on Highway 224 that has been closed because of landslides. ODOT officials said they hope to have the section reopened during the first week of April.

Leaders at the Oregon Department of Transportation hope to reopen Highway 224 between Southeast 232nd Drive and Southeast Tong Road during the first week of April.

The three-and-a-half mile stretch of the highway has been closed since last month because of seven landslides that occurred within two weeks. Since the closure, westbound traffic has been directed onto 232nd Drive, and eastbound traffic has been directed onto Southeast Tong Road. Local residents have still had access to their homes.

Kimberly Dinwiddie, a community affairs coordinator and public information officer with ODOT, noted that high amounts of rain, coupled with the area being so steep, added to the area's susceptibility to landslides.

"There's been a heavy amount of rain," Dinwiddie said. "We've had some of our wettest months recently."

Dinwiddie said ODOT is working with a Colorado-based contractor who specializes in these kind of situations to stabilize the soil so the area can safely be reopened to traffic.CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - A new drainage system and soil nails are part of a solution to stabalize the 70-foot hillside on a section of Highway 224.

Because of all of the recent rain, the first tasks workers completed was draining the 70-foot hillside. Once that was completed, they installed a drainage system. To help the soil remain stable in the future, reinforced concrete and soil nails will be installed.

Dinwiddie explained that soil nails typically go 20-25 feet in the ground to act as an anchor. They are often used on Mt. Hood.

Dinwiddie said the new implementations will likely provide a permanent solution to the landslides in the area, though the slope might not look much different as people drive along the highway again because of where the slides originate from.

"From the open road, it might not look like much has changed, but the slides are coming from the top (of the hill)," she said. "We appreciate everyone's patience and understanding as we fully address this problem. Travelers shouldn't encounter future landslides from that slope."

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