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Highway open by Dec. 15?

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

November 22, 2006

Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort will open about one month behind schedule — but Dave Riley, president of the company, is pleased to have the target date of Dec. 15 to plan around.

“We are optimistic and certainly we will be able to have a great ski season — it’s just going to be delayed,” said Riley.

He said the snow base at Meadows was ready to go by late last week. So, it was hard to have the resort inaccessible to the public due to the closure of Highway 35 just south of Baseline Drive and the northern section of Highway 26.

“It’s been a real challenge and losing a month of recreation is definitely going to hurt the company, the employees, the (Hood River) community and our guests,” said Riley.

He is keeping skiers updated about the repair work on Dave’s Blog, which can be accessed through a link on Meadows Web site, www.skihood.com.

“I’m very pleased with the progress that ODOT (Oregon Department of Transportation) and Tri-State Construction is making. And it has been very helpful for ODOT to give us a date to work with,” said Riley.

He has 1,000 employees, most from Hood River County, waiting to take their stations at the resort. Last year, Meadows had 500,000 visitors so Riley expects that a lot of recreationists are also anxious for the highway fix to be completed.

“We’re still pushing and hoping for the work to be done by Dec. 15 — or perhaps even sooner,” said Riley.

Barring bad weather or other unforeseen conditions, ODOT has estimated that both the south and north highway accesses to Meadows can reopen by mid-December.

Tri State has been hired to help with the rebuilding of sections of highway that have been washed out, undercut and/or buried by huge boulders — some larger than pickup trucks — and mud. About one million cubic yards of glacial sentiment washed down the mountainside during heavy rains on Nov. 7 and found its way into area waterways.

The most major destruction brought by the massive mudflow occurred at the White River Bridge. The river dug a new channel through the pavement to the north of the structure and the old riverbed was completely filled with sediment. The underspan of the bridge was blocked by woody debris, rocks and mud, which also buried the top of the passage by five or six feet.

ODOT has now installed large culvert pipes in the new White River channel and will rebuild the road on top of these cylinders. About 20,000 dump truck loads of newly deposited material will be transported from the White River to the Clark and Newton Creek repair sites.

According to an ODOT report, dump trucks are expected to be coming and going around the clock to accomplish this work as quickly as possible. Once the White River bridge work is completed and repairs made to deeply gouged ditches along Highway 35 near Clark and Newton creeks, the road will reopen in both directions.

ODOT does not expect the cleanup underneath the White River Bridge — the top has already been cleared — to interfere with travel along the highway above.

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