State Trail: ODOT mulls options for crossing Mitchell Pt.

TEAM representing public agencies visits Mitchell Point during a technical study.

As work presses into winter on the Wyeth portion of the Columbia River Historic Highway State Trail, transportation agencies are considering alternatives for the next piece of the endeavor: Mitchell Point.

Oregon Department of Transportation and partners are narrowing down crossing designs for the rocky cape west of Hood River. It’s part of a years-long project constructing a paved biking and pedestrian trail from Troutdale to The Dalles.

A funding path for the Mitchell proposal emerged last year when the Federal Lands Access Program awarded ODOT a $28 million grant.

The rocky terrain three miles west of Hood River poses challenges. A feasibility study in 2015 identified four options, such as drilling or blasting a crossing.

Choices have since been whittled down to two according to an ODOT newsletter. The alignments currently on the table are a combination of a basalt shelf and partial tunnel or a shelf and bridge.

But fully recreating the former King of Roads-era tunnel won’t be possible.

“The original Mitchell Point Tunnel and Viaduct were a design feat,” ODOT staff said in a newsletter.

“Today we are tasked with designing a new crossing and are up against the same challenges Arthur Elliott (builder) faced 100 years ago — rock fall and fragile rock. While we would like to recreate the ‘Tunnel of Many Vistas’ with elegant adits (entryways) overlooking the river, it will be nearly impossible to duplicate exactly what was once there.”

A Mitchell Point Crossing design kick-off meeting took place in late October and geotechnical investigations are underway to determine which trail alignment will be feasible, ODOT said. Designing for Viento State Park to Mitchell Point will start sometime this winter.

The project, slated for 2020, will follow the current work by state crews on the trail project.

This summer, crews dug in on the Wyeth-Lindsey Creek stretch. The job has continued as the Eagle Creek fire wanes.

The new 3.3-mile piece of trail, set for completion in fall 2019, begins at Exit 51 off Interstate 84, just west of U.S. Forest Service’s Wyeth Campground, and extends west to Lindsey Creek, about 12 miles west of Hood River.

ODOT has conducted a series of rock blasts for the project, near milepost 53. The blasts are creating room for a trail in the existing rock slope.

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