Historic Columbia River Highway trail project moving along

 

It's a project that's clearly still in the works, but once completed, the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail promises to become a world-class destination for cyclists and those on foot.

The effort to turn the road into a 73-mile trail from Troutdale to Hood River has been more than 30 years in the making.

"People will be able to fly into PDX, they be able to take their bike and go to Troutdale and start the trail, and spend days going out, taking a section of it at a time, coming to each of the communities along the way,” HCRH Advisory Committee Chair Arthur Babitz explained.

The Oregon Department of Transportation gave reporters a look at the progress being made on the project Friday, showing off a section that will connect Wyeth and Lindsey Creeks - just one piece of a larger puzzle.

Since 1986, crews have been trying to connect all of the portions of the Historic Columbia River Highway destroyed by the construction of Interstate 84.

The goal of the effort is to create an uninterrupted path from Troutdale to Hood River with no motorized vehicles.

Right now, bicyclists have to share a section of I-84 on a path of pavement only four feet wide.

"We're really excited to be able to get them off the highway next to those big rigs that are traveling and to have their own dedicated space,” ODOT Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Coordinator Terra Lingley said.

Ironically, project managers said last year's Eagle Creek Fire, as well as the resulting lane closures on I-84, helped speed up the trail's construction schedule.

“The construction folks were able to, actually, get a little bit of a head start and do some work that needed a lane of Interstate 84 to be closed anyway,” Babitz said. “So as long as a lane was closed, they got a head start on that work.”

MORE: Eagle Creek Fire reaches 100 percent containment nearly 3 months after tearing through Gorge

The new trail will feature bike stations and water stations, plus a chance to see the crown jewel of the Northwest from a different perspective.

”You’ll be able to look both up and down the Gorge, away from the highway,” Lingley said. “You'll be able to get out into the woods… and to really explore the Gorge and to enjoy the scenic beauty.”

The section toured by reporters Friday is scheduled to be finished by next summer. After that, there will only be five miles left to finally connect the entire 73-mile trail.

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