Editorial: Attention to safety needed even though the freeway looks like it's finished

October 22, 2011

The new alignment at Interstate 84's exit 64 takes some getting used to, but the final touches are in sight on the two-year project.

Patience is in order, to last two or three weeks longer. Traffic is almost, but not quite, ready to return to normal.

The temporary, restricted freeway entry pattern - from exit 63 eastbound and from exit 64 westbound - is still in place, even though the temporary barriers have been removed. Note that there is a solid line between the single I-84 through line and the on-ramp lanes. Drivers still need to travel through exit 64 heading east, and through exit 63 heading west, for the next two to three weeks.

Abutting the freeway work is the Hood River interstate bridge painting project. Crews will need to knock off for the season as soon as the weather turns truly cold and damp.

Crews have been fortunate to have (mostly) dry and (sufficiently) warm weather in the first half of autumn. Doing the work in shorter daylight hours has created longer delays, and this comes in combination with the lane reductions necessary at the neighboring exit 64 project.

"Both have jobs to do, and both are important," said Michael McElwee, port executive director. "We definitely heard from people who are concerned about the backups and delays, but the good news is exit 64 is nearly done.

"We need to take advantage of good weather for painting, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be as coordinated as we can. We recognize it's important we minimize (delays)," McElwee said.

The more painting gets done this fall, the less intrusion motorists will experience this spring when the paint crew comes back.

While the rubber hits the road at exit 64, the county's Interchange Access Management Plan (IAMP) is still on the drawing board, but it could have long-range implications for the freeway as it passes through and connects with the city and the county The County Planning Commission continues its public hearing on the IAMP Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. at the County Business Administration Building (first floor conference room) at 601 State St. in Hood River.

ODOT studied the need for improvements to the three interchanges in Hood River (exits 62, 63 and 64). The result of the study is two Interchange Area Management Plans, one for exit 62 and one for exits 63 and 64.

The plan includes transportation improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists as well as cars and trucks. In addition, the management plans guide how access to properties adjacent to the interchanges should be handled and how city and county streets will be improved to meet access requirements.

Despite the reference to exits 62-64, the IAMP study area goes far beyond the freeway exits. It extends to Rand Road to the west, taking in May Street, Frankton Road, 30th Street and the urban growth boundary.

There's seemingly no end to the question of "Can we all get around?"

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