In response to public outcry asking essentially, “Hey, why penalize us?”, the Oregon Department of Transportation on Friday evening reopened I-84 Eastbound from Troutdale to Cascade Locks.
The freeway remains closed between there and Hood River, while work continues to remove the massive rock slide that closed both eastbound lanes on Wednesday evening.
Numerous travelers told The Buzz that they had endured long, slow drives down Washington State Route 14 to reach Hood River. One couple took three hours Thursday night to travel between Camas, Wash., and Hood River, slowed by cleanup work related to a fatal car accident west of Stevenson.
Hood River employees living on the Washington side of the river in Stevenson, Underwood, Trout Lake, White Salmon and Bingen all reported bumper to bumper traffic on SR 14 and slow travel across the Hood River Bridge, clogged with large trucks forced to the Washington side of the river by the landslide.
According to an ODOT news releases, the slide dumped about 2,000 cubic yards of rocks and debris on I-84 three miles west of Hood River (at milepost 61) just before 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
At 7 p.m. Friday, Feb 14, the eastbound lanes of Interstate 84 opened to passenger vehicles at Troutdale, exit 17. The eastbound lanes will remain closed to all vehicles east of exit 44 at Cascade Locks, at the Bridge of the Gods.
The eastbound lanes at Troutdale remain closed to trucks and RVs. Trucks and RVs may continue to cross the Columbia River on Interstate 205 and the Glenn Jackson Bridge, which has four northbound lanes while the Bridge of the Gods has one northbound lane.
ODOT adjusted the closure after receiving numerous requests for greater access to the area from residents of Cascade Locks and communities west of there.
One lane of I-84 westbound will remain open between Hood River and Troutdale; travelers should expect slow traffic, delays, backups and possible short-term highway closures until they get past the slide area.
A second alternate route is U.S. 26 (Mount Hood Highway) to OR 35 and then north to I-84 in Hood River. With rain and snow expected in the area, ODOT warns travelers to be prepared for possibly severe winter weather along this route.
On Friday, scalers from Hi-Tech Rockfall Construction of Forest Grove started knocking down loose rock from the rock wall above the landslide. The three-member crew, roped up, started at the top of the 120-foot wall Friday morning and, using pry tools and other devices, sent rocks crashing down onto the rock pile on the freeway below. These rocks were in danger of falling and needed to be removed before crews could safely work to clear the slide.
ODOT said the scaling work is expected to take two full days. Once scaling is finished, crews will begin removing about 200 large dumptruck loads of material. Work will take place around the clock until the freeway can be reopened.
ODOT hopes to open one eastbound lane of I-84 sometime Monday by shifting the median barrier into the westbound lanes; at that time, one westbound lane will remain open.
Travelers coming to, through or from the Gorge on an expected busy Valentine’s weekend should check ODOT’s TripCheck web site.