Guest Article: An update from ODOT on the Historic Columbia River Highway

Guest Article: An update from ODOT on the Historic Columbia River Highway

A tour of the Historic Columbia River Highway

The Historic Columbia River Highway is a bicycling gem.
And it just keeps getting better.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

This guest article was written by ODOT’s Region 1 Transit and Active Transportation Liaison Jessica Horning and ODOT’s Historic Columbia River Highway project coordinator Kristen Stallman.

The Historic Columbia River Highway is one of Oregon’s most popular and scenic destinations regardless of your preferred mode of travel. The 73-mile route from Troutdale to The Dalles provides amazing views of the best the Columbia River Gorge has to offer, from waterfalls to windswept high plains. The highway was constructed in 1913 with a maximum 5 percent grade, making it an ideal route for a long distance bike ride. The Historic Highway is also a designated scenic byway, making it a popular shared route for motorists and bicyclists alike.

In 2013, the Historic Highway will see improvements that will make this scenic gem more accessible, with more opportunities for visitors to enjoy the Gorge by foot, bike, and car.

The Historic Columbia River Highway Advisory Committee and the Friends of the Historic Columbia River Highway have joined together to advocate for the completion of the State Trail by 2016, the 100th anniversary of the Historic Highway.

On May 24th, the section of the Historic Highway between Larch Mountain Road and Latourell Falls will reopen after being closed to all traffic (including people on bikes and foot) sporadically through the winter while repairs were made to the Crown Point Viaduct around Vista House. The Historic Highway will be open with no traffic restrictions for Memorial Day weekend (May 24-27) and then periodic lane closures will resume until repairs are completed in mid-June. These closures may cause delays for all users and result in the highway being more crowded than usual, so please plan ahead and be alert and courteous when sharing the road.

More of these coming soon.
(Photo: ODOT)

Narrow and winding sections of roadway contribute to the Historic Highway’s charm, but can also lead to tension between users, especially during the peak summer months. This spring ODOT will install Share the Road signs in several locations along the Historic Highway between the Sandy River and Vista House to alert drivers to the presence of cyclists. This road is a precious resource that is shared by many users and it is important that we are all respectful and considerate to one another. ODOT is also working with local communities and organizations to increase understanding of proper road-sharing behavior:

  • Motorists should pass cyclists with care when it is safe to do so, and be patient in areas where topography, debris, or the narrow roadway makes it safer for cyclists to ride in the center of the lane.
  • Cyclists should ride to the right and single-file when traffic approaches and allow motorists to pass when the road is wide enough to safely do so.
  • ODOT will be installing “Share the Road” signs at several locations on the Historic Highway and is exploring ways to improve bicycle wayfinding signage.

ODOT is investing in making the Historic Highway an even better place to ride by reconnecting severed sections of the Historic Highway via the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. Eleven miles of the Historic Highway are currently preserved as a State Trail for exclusive hiking/biking use. On Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013, ODOT will celebrate the grand opening of an additional 1.6-mile section of trail connecting John B. Yeon State Park in Warrendale to the existing restored Historic Highway State Trail at Moffett Creek Bridge that travels to Cascade Locks. Federal funding has been secured to design and construct another gap in the State Trail between Warren Creek and Lindsey Creek in 2015. Another 2.1 mile section of trail connecting Wyeth State Park to Lindsey Creek State Park (across Shellrock Mountain) is currently being considered for funding through ODOT’s 2016-18 State Transportation Improvement Program.

Map by ODOT, click to enlarge.

The McCord Creek Bridge and a new 1.6 mile section of the Historic Highway State Trail will open this summer. This connection will close the “missing link” and allow people to travel via bicycle from Troutdale to Cascade Locks without having to ride on I-84.

McCord Bridge Trail.
(Photo: ODOT)

Once complete, the Historic Highway State Trail will connect communities along the Gorge to many of Oregon’s underdeveloped State Parks. As trail construction continues, a world-class cycling route is being developed in partnership with these small towns by developing relevant mapping and enhancing tourism amenities to cater to the cycling market. In order to share initial successes and the positive economic impact of Historic Highway and State Trail, ODOT produced the film, One Great Road, Many Great Economic Benefits.

At ODOT, we’re excited about the progress on the Historic Highway. Thanks for your patience during construction and we hope to see a lot of you out on your bikes enjoying this state treasure very soon.

Learn more about the Historic Columbia River Highway on ODOT’s website. You can also browse our archives for past coverage.

Comments are closed.