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Historic Highway Trail work about to begin

HIKER stops to take in the cascading Hole in the Wall Falls Monday afternoon.

Photo by Patrick Mulvihill.
HIKER stops to take in the cascading Hole in the Wall Falls Monday afternoon.

Construction on a key piece of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail between Cascade Locks and Hood River is slated for late fall.

The Oregon Department of Transportation plans to build a 1.2-mile section of bike and pedestrian trail that will run from Starvation Creek State Park, about seven miles west of Hood River, to Lindsey Creek to the west.

Kristen Stallman, ODOT Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area coordinator, said crews will start removing trees in December, but U.S. Forest Service workers could be removing noxious weeds and brush well before then.

“People will start seeing construction in December,” said Stallman.

Most of the physical work is planned for 2016, to coincide with the highway’s centennial celebration — the first section of which was dedicated in 1916.

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TRAIL portions on the Historic Columbia River State Highway path will be closed in late fall or winter as transportation agencies start construction on a 1.2-mile piece of trail between Starvation Creek and Lindsey Creek.

The Historic Highway, once dubbed “King of Roads,” spanned 73 miles from Wood Village to The Dalles but fell out of use with the construction of Interstate 84. Now historic groups and transportation agencies are banding together to restore the historic route as one continuous trail.

During construction, ODOT expects some lane closures on Interstate 84 — most likely the eastbound lane near Exit 55. Some popular areas on the path, including Hole in the Wall Falls, will be closed to visitors.

The Lindsey-Starvation Creek piece will mark the beginning of construction on the greater Columbia River Historic Highway Trail project, which plans to hook up pedestrians and bikers with a scenic pathway from Portland to The Dalles.

“It is an integral part of the Columbia River Gorge that hundreds of thousands of visitors enjoy each year for its mosaic of uses and natural beauty,” said Eric Martin, chair of the Oregon Heritage Commission.

The Hood River County Planning Department approved ODOT’s application to begin trail work between the Lindsey and Starvation Creek portion of the trail in April.

The trail will halt at a dead end until the next 2.7-mile section of trail, running from Lindsey Creek to Wyeth, is built in 2016.

ODOT is seeking county approval on the Wyeth portion of the trail — Stallman said she dropped off the application last Thursday. She described this plan as more “extensive” than the previous application, and could take up to six months to review and approve.

Most burdensome of all trail work in Hood River County will be the Mitchell Point portion of the trail.

Stallman said there were multiple options regarding “how we might get around” the rocky terrain but they will all be expensive. She said rock blasting is likely — doing so would mean more protracted highway or trail closures than the county will see during the Lindsey-Starvation Creek and Wyeth trail work.

Along with the trail endeavor comes the Gorge Hubs project: bike hubs in each city along the way, serving as resting and “refueling” stations for weary travelers. From west to east, they’ll be situated in Wood Village, Troutdale, Cascade Locks, Hood River, Mosier and The Dalles.

Hood River’s hub will be part of the State Street restroom and bike station, which was constructed at 3rd and State in spring. New elements will include a piece of public artwork and signage with historic information.

The State Trail advisory committee will meet on Friday, Oct. 9 at the Wood Village City Hall to give presentations on the upcoming construction work and discuss design plans for the Wyeth to Lindsey Creek section.

Updates on closures along the Lindsey-Starvation Creek portion of trail will be posted on the U.S. Forest website: www.fs.usda.gov/ alerts/crgnsa/alerts-notices. For more information on the Historic Highway Trail Project, and for videos illustrating the planned trail construction, go to www.oregon.gov/ ODOT/HWY/HCRH/pages/trail.aspx

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