Friday, October 28, 2011/lk
The exit 64 project at Interstate 84 approaches its last stages.
The Oregon Department of Transportation is in the last two weeks of what has been a two-year process of widening and reshaping one of the Gorge's busiest transportation intersections.
Motorists are finding new traffic flow patterns where Button Bridge Road connects Highway 30 to the Hood River port and Marketplace, Hood River Interstate Bridge and the interstate.
Signs reading "Button Bridge Road are among the numerous changes seen at exit 64; the well-used local terms for the curving road leading to and from exit 64 have long been "Button Bridge" and "Button Bridge Road". Now, for the first time, there are signs so designating that section of Highway 35 between Highway 30 and the bridge across the Columbia River.
Permanent striping is now in place delineating the through-traffic and turning lanes onto the freeway and to destinations such as downtown Hood River, the interstate bridge and the marina complex.
On the freeway itself, the temporary, restricted freeway entry pattern - from exit 63 eastbound and from exit 64 westbound - is still in place, even though the temporary barriers have been removed. Note that there is a solid line between the single I-84 through line and the on-ramp lanes. Drivers still need to travel through exit 64 heading east, and through exit 63 heading west, for the next two to three weeks.
Flaggers will reroute traffic in the next two weeks in order to complete three details: curbing on the west side of Button Bridge Road, installing "loops" in the asphalt (the strips cars drive over to activate signals) and completion of sidewalks and pedestrian amenities at the southeast corner of the project.
Pedestrians, take note: Crosswalks are officially closed until the project is finished. "Not in service" signs still cover the crosswalk signals.
However, once the project is done, it will be possible to walk from Highway 30, down Button Bridge Road, under the freeway, and to the marina and Marketplace areas.
An ODOT crew continued work Friday on a curb "island" next to the eastbound onramp to I-84. A pedestrian lane will bisect the island, connecting the Button Bridge sidewalk to the pedestrian way underneath the freeway.
Port Executive Directyor Michael McElwee acknowledges "some very bad days in the last week" at exit 64 and the interstate bridge.
ODOT interchange project and the port bridge repainting work that have gone on simultaneously on all summer have resulted in heightened traffic delays through exit 64 via the bridge and Button Bridge Road.
He said "a combination of factors" led to the delays, including the need by the painting crew to take advantage of as much dry and warm weather as possible.
"The two flagging operations are in touch when operations are planned, in particular any construction that restricts the traffic flow," he said. "The painting project has been fairly smooth," with minimal backups in the last part of the summer, McElwee said.
"But in the past week, painting contractors have worked later because days are shorter; so they are demobilized a bit later in the afternoon," he added.
Most importantly, the flagging at I-84 has reduced the volume of traffic, especially southbound.