Highway 35 projects wrap up for winter

November 16, 2011

With winter weather underfoot, crews on two major Highway 35 improvement projects worked quickly to wrap up operations, remove equipment and depart the roadsides of Mount Hood until next spring.

As a final touch before rain and snow move in for the next several months, crews sprayed a dark green coating on soil and rocks in the project areas. The "bonded fiber matrix" consists of wood fibers, glues and a green coloring and will help stabilize loose material and prevent erosion.

The projects, at White River and Clark and Newton creeks, are designed to address recurring issues the highway has encountered during high-water events on the east side of Mount Hood. Drainage problems in both areas have resulted in multiple, significant and costly repairs to roads, bridges and culverts over the last few decades.

Most recently, flooding and debris flows in November 2006 destroyed sections of the highway in two separate locations. On the White River side, south of Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Area, a massive debris flow and sudden changes in the path of the river took out sections of road and inundated the highway bridge over the river.

At the same time, to the north of the ski resort, Clark and Newton creeks were swollen by several days of record rainfall. Debris flows triggered by major flooding carved new channels around, through and across the highway. Sections of the highway had to be rebuilt, but not before boulders the size of trucks were removed from the middle of the road.

The Federal Highway Administration, the Oregon Department of Transportation and the U.S. Forest Service are working together on the projects. Aside from wrapping up some loose ends, work is complete until snow melts in the spring. Through the summer, crews made considerable progress, but with significant work still to be done, work is expected to continue into the fall of 2012

A new, 100-foot span bridge over Clark Creek is now completed - replacing two culverts that fed the creek into the East Fork of the Hood River. For winter, the road is returned to two-way travel after several weeks of a limited, one-way detour controlled by a stop light.

A project manager said the idea behind the Newton and Clark projects is to create several fail-safes so that future high water incidents have multiple outlets other than flowing over Highway 35.

In addition to the new bridge, a large channel is being constructed on the west side of the highway. The channel will be dry during normal weather conditions, but will direct floodwaters when they are high enough. Along that channel, several 40-foot by 10-foot culverts were placed under the highway. The culverts will act as outlets for high water to get under the highway.

As part of the project, the Teacup Lake parking area was expanded by more than 1,000 feet, which will give the popular nordic ski trails room for at least 100 more cars. Across the road from Teacup, however, the Clark Creek Sno-Park is no more. Pavement was stripped away and replaced by new wetland soil, which is meant to restore a more natural floodplain condition in the area.

The change is permanent and access to the former Clark Creek nordic trails will not be re-established as part of the betterment project.

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