Historic Columbia River Highway open again

Restoration project is now complete after renovation of the 1918 viaduct

Renovation of the Historic Columbia River Highway and the viaduct surrounding the Vista House has been completed and one of the state’s most popular tourist attractions is fully open.

The project has meant lane closures and, on occasion, full closures of the Historic Columbia River Highway that winds around Vista House. The work presented many difficulties on a raw, exposed site hundreds of feet above the Columbia River Gorge.

The project restored the 600-foot Crown Point viaduct and its 29 support columns. Vista House itself, part of the Oregon State Parks system, underwent a five-year restoration, completed in 2005, and was not involved in this project.

The viaduct and its support columns were deteriorating and without restoration, the walls eventually would have failed and the road would have required weight restrictions, which would have kept tourist buses, RVs and other large vehicles off the road.

While the focus of the project was rehabilitating the Crown Point viaduct, the project included restoration of portions of Historic Columbia River Highway between Larch Mountain Road and Latourell Falls.

The restoration maintained the original appearance as much as practical.

The project included:

n repair and replacement of viaduct columns and footings;

n repair and strengthening of the bottom of the viaduct deck;

n repairing cracks in the top of the viaduct deck and parapet;

n restoration of viaduct light fixtures and updating of electrical components;

n repair of the masonry retaining wall beneath the viaduct structure and repair of a failing section of roadway; and

n rehabilitation of the upper west parking lot at Crown Point.

The restoration project attempted wherever possible to maintain the original appearance of the structure.

The road, now called the Historic Columbia River Highway, opened in 1916. Two years later, Vista House opened at the Crown Point summit 733 feet above the Columbia River. Crown Point typically receives more than half a million visitors a year, a dramatic western gateway to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

The project was a joint effort of the Federal Highway Administration, Western Federal Lands Highway Division; the Oregon Department of Transportation; and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

For more project information, go to http://1.usa.gov/U0qSMB.

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