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Repair work along Historic Columbia River Highway to cause delays during weekdays

COURTESY PHOTO: ODOT - Work has begun to restore the Oneonta Tunnel after it was damaged by the Eagle Creek Fire. Restoration work has begun to reopen a historic tunnel in the Columbia River Gorge that has been closed since being damaged during the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire.

The Oregon Department of Transportation has started working to reopen the Oneonta Tunnel on the Historic Columbia River Highway. Travelers should expect single lane closures on the highway with flaggers directing traffic near the tunnel. Most of the work will occur during daylight hours on weekdays, with no traffic impacts on the weekend.

The restoration is needed after the Eagle Creek Fire badly damaged the tunnel's wood lining. The work was done in two phases. In February 2020, crews addressed rockfall concerns on the hillside at and above the tunnel.

Now the second phase, which will continue through summer 2021, will restore the tunnel. The project is funded by emergency response dollars through the Federal Highway Administration.

The 125-foot Oneonta Tunnel was originally opened in 1914 as part of the Historic Columbia River Highway. It was used to cut through Oneonta Bluff and avoid moving a railroad that was snug against the base of the bluff.

In 1948 ODOT redirected traffic around the tunnel and filled it with rubble. In 2009 the tunnel was restored for bicycle and pedestrian use as part of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail.

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