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Pedestrian dangers cited as digging out begins

PLOWING covered up pedestrian walkways that West Cascade business owners had carved along the busy state highway in Hood River, and created five-foot berms that forced walkers into the lane of traffic.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
PLOWING covered up pedestrian walkways that West Cascade business owners had carved along the busy state highway in Hood River, and created five-foot berms that forced walkers into the lane of traffic.



Among the quietest places in the Gorge was Interstate 84 for the past four days; the freeway finally reopened at 11 p.m. Thursday.

“It’s a very slow thaw but it is thawing, and they are making some real progress on it,” said ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton Thursday evening.

On Thursday morning Hood River City public works deployed tandem snow equipment – one to cut into the ice-crusted berms and churn the snow and ice, and a second to plow it aside. ODOT had plowed West Cascade and other state thoroughfares Tuesday night, yielding five-foot berms along the roads, often covering up paths that had been dug for pedestrians.

West Cascade property owner Cris Arguelles said he understands the need to clear the lanes of traffic, but was concerned about pedestrian safety. “I did a lot of shoveling and part of that was to make sure the sidewalks were in pretty good shape, and the neighbors do that too so passersby don’t have to go into the street,” Arguelles said. “But this morning I was really surprised to find my driveway was completely blocked. “In addition to making me work about 40 minutes or so to reopen my driveway, I look to the other side of the street and said, ‘Wow , they eliminated the sidewalk over there too. This measure should not be pushing people out on the street to walk. It’s dangerous,” he said.

Hamilton said Thursday, “The process of clearing the streets is very difficult especially when the weather stays as cold as it has been in Hood River. We try to keep the roads open as best as we can, and try to make sure we’re not impeding pedestrians but we realize there are situations where that is unavoidable.” Hamilton said Gorge ODOT crews “are really working hard,” on 12-hour shifts, dealing with “a lot of drifting snow.” One thing that helped was bringing in one of ODOT’s “monster snow blowers” normally used on Mt. Hood.

Hamilton said both have been removed. Heard over the scanner on Wednesday: OSP fielded a request to let a tow truck in to pull the VW out. Initially the request was denied, but an ODOT worker replied, “They’re just going to plow it in. They need to get it out of there.”

Hamilton said Thursday, “They are making headway, all day."



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