- Written by Ben Jacklet
- Category: Transportation
- Published: February 13, 2014
- Last Updated: February 18, 2014
UPDATE 8 PM FRIDAY: Hwy. 35 between Govy and Meadows was "a giant cluster F" for hours Friday evening, according to one witness stuck in traffic there. "We had to bust around at least 5 trucks stuck on 35. Tow trucks, cops, cars, people. Everywhere. Never saw anything like it."
UPDATE 10 AM SATURDAY: Hwy. 35 has been bumper to bumper most of the morning from White River to Meadows, with unchained cars and buses stuck in the snow.
Update 6 am Sunday: I-84 has reopened one eastbound lane, although oversized trucks are still prohibited on the highway for now.
Eastbound Interstate 84 will be closed all President's Day weekend at Exit 17 near Troutdale, adding hundreds if not thousands of cars and slow-moving trucks to Mount Hood's workhorse Highways 26 and 35.
The Oregon Department of Transportation closed I-84 eastbound and one lane westbound Wednesday night after a huge landslide in the Columbia River Gorge at milepost 61 just west of Hood River brought 2,000 cubic yards of rock and debris down the hillside and into the highway. Nobody was injured but one driver did get his car pelted by large rocks.
Crews are working to open the road back up but that is not expected to happen until Monday, February 17.
“We’ve got a very difficult situation here,” said ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton. “This is a very tall rock wall. We don’t want any rock falls to take place while our crews are down there working.”
After the rocks above are removed for safety, workers will need to clear out the debris from the road, and “make sure that it is safe and that it won’t happen again,” Hamilton said.
That process is going to take the entire weekend, which means Portland skiers and snowboarders who take 84 to Hood River and then drive up 35 to the Hood River Meadows parking lot are going to lose their favorite route on one of the busiest weekends of the season.
It also means that some drivers heading west on 84 to Hood River will instead take 26 and 35, bringing more mountain traffic on a weekend with lots of snow and rain in the forecast. Unfortunately, quite few of those new drivers will be in slow, over-sized trucks.
ODOT is recommending two alternative routes for eastbound travelers: up I-205 into Washington State and east on SR SR-14, and south to 26 East and 35 South.
The catch is, trucks carrying over-sized loads cannot take SR-14 in Washington because the lanes and tunnels are too small. Extra-large trucks will have to follow the 26/35 route this weekend, and they could really clog things up because they tend to move at sloth speed on snowy mountain roads.
On an average day about 21,400 vehicles pass through that portion of I-84, according to ODOT figures. No doubt the number of daily travelers grows larger on holiday weekends.
The past three weekends have drawn large crowds to Mount Hood resorts, with both Mt. Hood Meadows and Timberline routinely getting parked out. The extra traffic redirected from I-84 could make things even sloppier this weekend, so early departures and careful driving are highly recommended.
And remember, the shuttle from Skibowl West to Timberline is no longer running. If Timberline is parked out, you will need to park in Govy and try to catch a Mountain Express bus up Timberline Road.