On ramps and reroutes

Locals, visitors find ways around the slide

The closure of the eastbound lanes of Interstate 84 has caused an odd situation for the residents of Mitchell Point Drive.

The dead-end street, located about 1.5 miles west of the landslide, is only accessible via an I-84 one-way westbound off ramp. To exit Mitchell Point Drive, travelers have no choice but to drive on a one-way access road that sends travelers eastbound on I-84 — right into the landslide.

Michael Harbert, who lives on the street, says the only way to leave Mitchell Point Drive now is to reverse eastbound up the westbound freeway exit ramp, with hazards flashing, and then drive westbound on I-84. If he wants to drive the 3 miles east to Hood River, Harbert must now drive west on I-84, cross the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks, drive east on State Route 14 in Washington, and then cross the Columbia River again on the Hood River Bridge — about an hour’s drive, or so.

The extra traffic on State Route 14 has created gridlock, at times, particularly near the Washington entrance of the Hood River Bridge. Port of Hood River Executive Director Michael McElwee reported Thursday afternoon that the bridge was “very congested and backed-up” that morning, but traffic had lessened as the day went on.

Down near Bridge of the Gods, a two-car head-on collision caused both lanes of SR 14 to close at milepost 41. The driver of one of the vehicles, 42-year-old Chad Bretsch of Philomath, died in the crash, according to a report in The Columbian. The other driver, Karl Wilkie, 58, of Carson, Wash., was transported to Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital.

SR 14 was further impacted by two rock slides of its own Thursday: one near milepost 77 east of Lyle and one near Bingen at milepost 66. No vehicles were involved in the slides and all lanes were reopened after short delays.

People, and goods, though, seem to be working around the situation on I-84.

Walmart, Safeway and Rosauers noticed minor problems with deliveries as a result of the freeway closure eastbound.

“It has delayed the delivery time, but we had more issues with the snow,” last week, said Tammy Bertz, Safeway manager. “We try to keep our shelf levels full enough so a couple of hours won’t have an impact on the stocks. But so far we haven’t seen any real problems or delays.”

Rosauers Manager Steve Morgan said most of its deliveries were unaffected because the main supplies come westbound from Spokane.

“We maybe had some slight delays but everyone’s made it — they might have had to kick over to Highway 14 so there’s been a couple of hour delays on a few trucks, but it’s really a non-effect.

A Walmart spokeswoman said a few trucks have been delayed slightly, but agreed that the impact was greater from the heavy snow.

People planning to come to Hood River appear mostly undeterred by the situation, hospitality merchants said.

“We’re booked up. I think people are willing to go around,” said Cathy Butterfield, manager of Hood River Hotel.

“We were a bit worried on Thursday because Highway 14 was closed for awhile, but it’s open again and even our purveyors are coming out.

“I think people are so cooped up they’re willing to drive around,” Butterfield said.

Raquel Van Natta of Best Western Hood River Inn said, “We’ve had a few cancellations because they don’t want to deal with the re-route, and it’s totally understandable, so we’re being flexible about that,” she said.

“We didn’t have any large conferences booked this weekend, luckily,” Van Natta said.

“There has been quite a backup getting onto the bridge, and I had one employee who works in Bingen who said it took them an hour to get to work.

“I guess people just need to plan ahead for a few days,” Van Natta said.

It takes a while to get across the bride, agreed Mike Glover, Chamber of Commerce executive director. But he said overall there appear to be few impacts on local business.

“People can still get here, and it might deter a small percentage of people making last-minute plans but for the most part I don’t think it’s stopping anyone,” Glover said.

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