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Tunnel, iconic arched windows, to return to Gorge after 70 years with walking, biking path

COURTESY PHOTO: ODOT - Groundbreaking has begun to bring back Mitchell Point Tunnel to the Columbia River Gorge.Work has begun to reconstruct an iconic tunnel in the Columbia River Gorge.

The Oregon Department of Transportation has taken the first step in rebuilding Mitchell Point Tunnel, a passage built in 1915 for cars traveling the Historic Columbia River Highway that has been closed for nearly 70 years.

The new tunnel, for walkers and bikers, will be 655-feet long with five arched windows reminiscent of the original design. The work will be completed in 2023.

The original Mitchell Point Tunnel was part of the old Columbia River Highway, and was noted for its five arched windows showing views of the Gorge.

In 1953 it had to be closed and filled in after being too narrow for modern transportation, and it was later destroyed in 1966 with the construction of Interstate 84.

In 1986 the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act passed and motivated legislators in Salem to commit to restoring the original 73-mile roadway from Troutdale to The Dalles. Some stretches are accessible to cars and cyclists, while others portions join the Historic Highway State Trail.

Planning for a new Mitchell Point began in 2015, and three years later the state committed to bringing back the tunnel. It is one of three trail segments yet to be connected. To the west is another stretch that will begin construction in 2022, leaving just one 1.6-mile segment yet to be developed. PMG FILE PHOTO - The original Mitchell Point Tunnel was famous for its windows.


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