Jeff Merkley

05/29/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/29/2024 17:13

Merkley, Wyden, Blumenauer Announce $11 Million for the Historic Columbia River Highway Project

Washington, D.C. - Oregon's U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden and U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) announced today the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is awarding the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) $11 million to make further progress on the final segment of its sweeping project to reconnect the Historic Columbia River Highway.

The federal funding comes through a Fiscal Year 2024 Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects Program grant, which will bring the project closer than ever to completion to support greater access for cyclists and pedestrians along the iconic corridor in the Columbia River Gorge, while also creating a multitude of recreation and economic opportunities in the region.

"The Columbia River Gorge is one of the most beautiful and breathtaking landscapes in our country," Merkley said. "The decades-long determination to restore the iconic Historic Columbia River Highway is a testament to the vision and tenacity of many Oregonians-a vision I share and continue to push to secure federal funding for along the way. When this marvelous project is complete, it will not only be a win for our recreation and economy, but the trail will fill Oregonians and visitors alike with wonder for generations to come."

"Oregonians have been seeking respite in the grandeur of the Columbia River Gorge for centuries," Wyden said. "Blending the classic infrastructure of the Historic Columbia River Highway with a need for car-free exploration options gives Oregonians and visitors a safe path to experience one of Oregon's Seven Wonders firsthand, creating positive personal and economic impacts. I will continue to support projects like this that improve livability for Oregonians now and generations to come."

"This is the latest installment of our ongoing effort to recover the treasure of the Historic Columbia River Highway," Blumenauer said. "I have long championed federal funding to realize the vision of this project, from clearing the Mosier Tunnels to extending the trail on several occasions. That includes from Perham Creek to Mitchell Creek and between Starvation Creek and Viento State Park. Today's investment brings us one step further to completing our task."

The Historic Columbia River Highway-dubbed "The King of Roads"-was constructed over a century ago through the Columbia River Gorge but was severed by and abandoned after the construction of Interstate 84. ODOT, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, the United States Forest Service, and a number of other federal, state, and local partners have been working for decades to reconnect the Historic Columbia River Highway as a trail for non-motorized uses and restore this natural wonder in Oregon.

The $11 million in federal funding announced today will specifically support construction of a section of the remaining portion of the project, which is a 1.7-mile bicycle- and pedestrian-only hard-surface trail between Mitchell Point and Ruthton Trailhead in Hood River. Expected to be complete in 2027, the result of the entire project will be a 73-mile pedestrian and cyclist trail corridor.

The full Historic Columbia River Highway will be a world-class bicycle and pedestrian experience, attracting large numbers of visitors from across the country and around the world, strengthening the economies of Gorge communities.

"It's been amazing to watch the progress on this historic trail and mark each milestone along the way," said Rian Windsheimer, who manages ODOT's Region 1. "This funding will help us take the next step toward completing the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. Once we finish connecting these segments, folks from around the world will be able to explore and experience the natural beauty of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area by walking and biking the route as never before. We're proud to partner with our federal partners and the community to make this dream a reality."