Gorge bike trail extension rolls in at $21 million
There's plenty of trailblazing happening in the Columbia River Gorge — but it's not the work of the Eagle Creek Fire.
Oregon Department of Transportation contractor crews continue to hew a foot-and-pedal pathway that will someday link Troutdale to The Dalles. Another three-mile installment of the 73-mile-long project, known as the Columbia River Highway State Trail, is expected to be complete in 2019.
"This is a whole new and different way to appreciate the beauty of the Columbia River Gorge," says ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton, "that people don't see when they're driving through it at 65 miles per hour."
The latest segment, located east of Cascade Locks, will connect Wyeth State Park to Lindsey Creek State Park at a total cost of roughly $21 million. Other sections of the trail are open to cars, but this three-mile section will be reserved for walkers and cyclists, who must currently sweat it out on a four-foot bike lane along Interstate 84.
The winding trail crosses Summit Creek along a new 500-foot-long viaduct, squeezes between Shellrock Mountain and I-84 and also travels along Mossy Road, a section of the Historic Highway that hasn't had regular car traffic since the 1950s.
"It's not the 1916 concrete," notes Hamilton.
A new trailhead at Wyeth will include public restrooms, a bike fix-it station, water bottle filler and a pollinator habitat for birds, bees and butterflies. Workers also blasted a "bench cut" path out of solid rock near Lindsey Creek.
Throughout the project, designs have taken visual cues from the stonework and masonry of the original Columbia River Highway that was constructed between 1913 and 1922. Sections of the road were destroyed to make room for the I-84 freeway in the 1950s through the '70s.
ODOT must still tackle another five challenging miles to complete the trail. Funding has been secured for a crossing at Mitchell Point, but money is still needed to connect Viento State Park with Perham Creek.
"When this project is complete, we will have established a genuine, world-class bike facility that we feel will attract people from all over the world," Hamilton predicts.
While the state trail begins in Troutdale on the Historic Highway, six miles of the road remain closed between Bridal Veil and Hood River because of the Eagle Creek Fire.