Historic Overview
Existing Conditions
Assessment and Analysis
Preservation Philosophy
Implementation and Management
Outreach and Education
Implementation & Management

The National Park Service's Columbia River Highway Guide for Maintenance (1981) noted that nearly every section of stonework on the drivable sections of the Highway suffered from neglect. In some areas, mortar was loose, had turned to powder, or was missing. Experts recommended removal and replacement of deteriorated mortar. In addition, several concrete caps were deteriorated beyond repair. Beginning in 1983, Oregon Department of Transportation masons repaired and or rebuilt both mortared masonry and dry masonry structures throughout the Highway.

All of the bridges throughout the Highway have undergone periodic structural inspections and continue to meet current load demands. Since 1987, cosmetic restoration has taken place on the concrete railings on several bridges. This has included recasting of some concrete spindles and repairing decorative panels on bridges and viaducts, and repointing or rebuilding masonry parapet walls.

Steel-backed two-rail wooden guardrail.
In the 1930s and 1940s, the Oregon State Highway Department replaced original two-rail wooden guard fence along the HCRH with a variety of rails. In the early 1990, ODOT hoped to replicate the original rail along the highway. The steel-backed railing is similar in dimension to the original guard fence, but meets a 50-mph crash standard. It has been installed along the nearly 40 miles of highway that are drivable. The original-dimensioned standard guard fence, without steel backing, has been installed on the portions of the route designated the HCRH State Trail, for non-motorized use. (Photo by Jeanette B. Kloos)


In the mid-1990s, the agency hoped to replace deteriorated "C"-rail and "W"-rail steel guardrail with a documented reproduction of the historic two-rail wooden guard fence that the Oregon State Highway Department developed for the route by 1920. According to an article published in 1920, this guard fence design became a standard later that year and soon, the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads adopted the Standard Guard Fence for use on its western Federal-aid roads.

The wooden railing, however, did not meet modern highway crash standards. ODOT developed a visually similar barrier consisting of wooden posts, steel-backed wooden rails, and hardware that was approved for use on the Highway. The Oregon State Historic Preservation Officer concurred with ODOT that the project had "No Adverse Effect" on the Highway.

The 1.4-mile Tanner Creek to Eagle Creek section of the Highway, 40 miles east of Portland, was the first abandoned highway segment rehabilitated for non-motorized use as part of the HCRH State Trail. This section was bypassed since the late 1930s, when construction of Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River required realignment of about four miles of the Highway.

To realize a project that met the Standards for Rehabilitation, ODOT overcame many challenges to reopen the Tanner Creek to Eagle Creek section. One viaduct, severely damaged by rockfall, was rebuilt. Nearby, a compatible new pedestrian bridge was constructed to span a gap created when construction of Toothrock Tunnel in 1936-37, on the new highway, destroyed a short portion of the HRCH.

In the 6.5-mile-long Hood River to Mosier section of the HCRH State Trail, some 70 miles east of Portland, ODOT rebuilt many linear feet of masonry guard walls from their foundations. Photographs of the historic structures and standard plans developed in the 1920s made this large replacement project manageable. As a result, new courses of masonry were faithfully reproduced to the original high standards for craftsmanship. Since it did not need to meet motor vehicle crash standards, many linear feet of original-dimension standard wooden guard fence were installed in this segment. Strips of asphaltic-concrete pavement placed on former gravel shoulders in the 1930s or 1940s were removed to return the roadway to its original 16- to 18-foot paved width.

East Portal, East Tunnel, Mosier Twin Tunnels. The tunnels were closed in the early 1950s and filled in with rubble. In 1996, the tunnels were reopened. New timber lining is visible here. The pock marks, evidence of vandalism from target practice, will be patched as restoration is completed on the Hood River to Mosier section of the HCRH in the next few years. (Photo by James B. Norman, 1997)

One of the greatest obstacles in rehabilitating the Hood River to Mosier section of the HCRH for non-motorized use was the Mosier Twin Tunnels, closed since 1953 because of rockfall from unstable basalt formations. In more recent years, a citizen's movement supported reopening the tunnels, and the project became the Advisory Committee's highest priority. Work commenced in 1995 with removal of backfill and lining debris from the tunnels; installation of rock bolts and shotcrete in the tunnel ceilings; and partial installation of new lining.

For visitor safety, a compatible new, reinforced-concrete rock catch structure was installed in the area between the tunnels, a similar structure will be completed immediately west of the tunnels in 1999. Masonry walls along a pedestrian cliff walk between the tunnels were rebuilt, but remain inaccessible for visitors because of rockfall hazards.

Interstate 84 underpass, Eagle Creek to Cascade Locks Section, HCRH State Trail, completed in 1999. (Photo courtesy Robert Hadlow, Ph.D.)

The Federal Highway Administration was the lead agency on a project to reopen 3.5 miles of Highway from Eagle Creek to Cascade Locks that was abandoned since 1937. This effort even required construction of a pedestrian tunnel under Interstate 84 to create a continuous, usable State Trail segment. Here, as on other connection projects, trailheads were developed, with parking areas and information kiosks. Signage noting roadway grade and cross slopes, along with degree of difficulty for wheelchair-bound recreationists, is also found at trailheads.

Annual maintenance funds pay for day-to-day upkeep on the Highway. ODOT has relied on several other funding sources, however, to carry out preservation and interpretation activities on the Highway. These include Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act Enhancement funds, Forest Highway funds, Public Lands Highway Discretionary funds, and Oregon Economic Development Department Regional Strategies funds. Other support has come through money authorized by the CRGNSA Act, from local agencies, and from anonymous private donors.

ODOT manages and maintains the drivable portions of the HCRH as a state highway. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department are the stewards for all portions of the HCRH State Trail.