The complexities of fire & opening a highway back up


ODOT crews plowing debris from Historic Columbia River Hwy   ODOT Region 1's Rian Windsheimer gave a presentation to WEA's Board of Directors that was eye-opening for most.  
   Windsheimer was there to tell directors about HB 2017, the transportation package that the State Legislature passed and the Governor signed, but he also shared some of the heroic efforts ODOT has made in the Columbia River Gorge since the Eagle Creek Fire began.
   Some may think that the trees in the gorge surely don't sit that close to the freeway or are close enough to shut down I-84 for weeks, but after listening to Windsheimer's stories, it's obvious how ODOT has really been looking out for everyone's safety in the gorge. 
   Contractors have scaled steep terrain to cut down more than 4,000 charred trees along the freeway.
   As Windsheimer stated, the winds can become so strong in the gorge that even healthy trees can be at risk of falling, let alone those damaged by fire.

   At one point, Windsheimer said ODOT was ready to open the freeway back up when land gave way and a tree came "tabogganing" down the hillside and onto the asphalt near Shell Rock Mountain.  
   More safety measures have been put into place, and the highway has been diverted and restricted to two lanes on the westbound side of the freeway in that area to avoid any falling rocks or trees.
   When the fire was close to Multnomah Falls, heroic measures were made to save the Multnomah Falls Lodge - firefighters manned seven fire trucks at the lodge, while ODOT workers kept the Historic Columbia River Highway clear of falling trees and rocks to give firefighters an escape route if it was needed.
   ODOT and other agencies are continuing to work to keep the area safe to travelers and the commerce that flows through the gorge along I-84.
  WEA thanks all who have worked tirelessly on getting I-84 back open again.
   It's a regional asset.
   Also, there is a new tourism campaign called "Kick Ash" to help businesses in the gorge lure customers back to the area.