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Nothing worse than rolling home from a fine day on the mountain and running into a bumper-to-bumper mess of tailights backed up on solid ice from Timberline Road to Welches. Traffic, parking and safety are real problems on Mount Hood. So what can be done about them?

Four government agencies — the Oregon Department of Transportation, the Mount Hood National Forest, and Hood River and Clackamas Counties — are trying to answer that large question as part of the awkwardly titled Mount Hood Multi-Modal Transportation Plan, or MHMTP. Since I despise goverment acronyms, especially ones that sound like MHMTP, I'll just refer to it herein as the plan.

The plan considers a wide variety traffic and safety improvements ranging from public transit to concrete dividers to intelligent transportation systems. "The idea is to identify the  projects that have support, and then figure out how to go after the money," says ODOT Project Manager Mike Mason.

One significant improvement, an extension of the Mountain Express bus line from Sandy to Timberline, has already been approved and is scheduled to begin this fall.

Another major safety project, to widen Highway 26 just west of Skibowl and install a concrete median stretching 2.3 miles, is scheduled to begin in 2014 and will result in significant closures of Hwy. 26 (though not during the winter ski season).

The potential projects for the future range from the ambitious to the mundane. Here are some of the possibilities:

  • A reconfiguration of the dangerous intersection of Hwy. 26 and Ski Bowl West
  • A parking and transit hub in Govy for an improved shuttle bus system on the mountain
  • An aerial tram connecting Skibowl, Government Camp and Timberline Lodge
  • A webpage for travelers with weather, incidents, parking info and more (hmmm... something like shredhood.org?)
  • Higher fees for Sno*Park permits (!)
  • More parking and a new trailhead for Mirror Lake
  • Various bicycle improvements
  • New rumble strips to warn drivers they are straying from their lanes
  • Improved access to Hwy. 26 from Government Camp Loop West.

Here's a link to an interactive map that shows where the improvements would go and explains what they would do. Mason says the overall plan should be complete by the end of 2013, but agencies will adjust it depending on support and funding.

How all of this will come together remains to be seen. Jon Tullis, the director of public affairs for Timberline, and other mountain supporters are calling for a Mount Hood Transit Authority similar to the system in Salt Lake City, to facilitate and pay for transportation improvements. But you can't establish a local transit authority without figuring out some way to raise local taxes, and raising taxes is always a tricky proposition.

What do you think? The population of Portland and Hood River are only going to grow, along with the popularity of Mount Hood as a destination. What's the best way to improve traffic, parking and safety on the mountain?