What snow? Highway work plows ahead

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

December 2, 2006

The Oregon Department of Transportation has reported that this week’s heavy snowfall hasn’t slowed down the repairs to flood damaged sections of Highway 35.

ODOT and Tri-State Construction, a hired contractor, now have 33 pieces of heavy machinery at work. If all keeps going well, Shawn Uhlman, ODOT spokesperson, said both the north and south accesses to Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort should reopen as planned by Dec. 15.

“It’s not ideal to have snow but we are still on schedule and we’ll make it unless there is a really significant weather event or unforeseen circumstances,” said Uhlman.

He said the cold weather may have helped stabilize the slopes above the work zones by freezing the ground solid.

Uhlman said the worst case scenario for ODOT would be a return of the warm rains that inundated loose glacial material on Mount Hood in early November. Experts estimate that one million cubic yards of mud slid downhill and into the White River and both Newton and Clark creeks during the early morning hours of Nov. 7.

The surge of water and sediment picked up boulders and pieces of wood that undercut pavement and gouged deep ditches near the two creeks.

In addition, the underspan of the White River Bridge was completely clogged by material, as was the river channel. That caused the waterway to carve a new channel that destroyed a 30-foot cross section of the highway north of the structure.

Uhlman said huge 30-yard dump trucks are now hauling debris from under the bridge around the clock. It is being transported to the two creek repair sites to be used as fill material.

Meanwhile, two large culverts have been installed to corral the White River and provide a base for the rock that has already been laid so the roadway can now be rebuilt.

For the time being, ODOT plans for the White River to remain in the new channel, although Uhlman said it will likely be re-routed back under the bridge at a later date.

Other Highway 35 notes:

* Highway 35 remains closed to public access just south of Baseline Drive and from the northern entrance at Highway 26.

* Meadows employees are being bused into the resort in the morning and evenings to prepare for the seasonal opening. The company is Hood River County’s largest private employer with 1,000 workers onboard during the winter months.

* Dave Riley, president of Meadows, anxiously awaits the reopening of the business and return of the 500,000 expected annual guests.

* Riley is keeping interested recreationists posted about the Highway 35 repairs on his blog, which can be accessed at www.skihood.com.

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