Ski season is upon us!
If you plan on driving up to Mount Hood on US 26 this summer or any of the next three summers, you should probably know a few key details about the $25 million Mt. Hood Safety Project starting June 23, 2014 and running through the fall of 2016.
The goal of the project is to improve safety during the final portion of the drive up to Mount Hood by widening lanes, installing a concrete median barrier, building a ditch to contain falling rocks and re-paving the highway from Silent Rock to OR 35.
The end result will definitely be an improvement, but first you can expect three years of delays and hassles. Here are five things to keep in mind when planning summer trips up the mountain:
1. Avoid driving on Hwy. 26 near Mount Hood between 5:30 and 7:30 pm. Those are the hours when the rock-blasting will take place, and delays will be frequent and unpleasant. Nothing like sitting there trapped for a full hour after a beautiful day on the mountain.
2. Avoiding peak construction times won't save you. You should expect random delays of up to 20 minutes any time workers are present, which will be often. Also, there will be many more trucks on the road slowing down traffic as they haul off rocks and debris. Frequent single lane closures will make congestion even worse.
3. Sunday will be your best bet. Construction work is not scheduled for holidays and Sundays, so the highway should be nice and clear for at least one day a week.
4. Thankfully, work will stop during the snow season. The project will go dormant from November through March each season and resume once the snow has melted in the spring. The current schedule calls for the project to be completed by the end of October in 2016.
5. At least we should get a decent passing lane out of the deal. Westbound passing lanes will be extended by a total of 1,400 feet. The highway will be widened and a concrete barrier will be constructed to prevent cross-over head-on collisions. And a big retaining wall is being built to protect nearby trails from debris.
For more details about the Mt. Hood Safety Project, see ODOT's website, or consider attending an open house scheduled for 5-7 pm, Tuesday, June 24 at the Resort at the Mountain, 68010 East Fairway Avenue, Welches.