U.S. Highway 26, the Mount Hood Highway, is one of the most beautiful routes in Oregon -- but is also the setting for many crashes, some of them deadly. A major safety project starting next spring aims to reduce that danger, ODOT officials said Tuesday.
Starting in April, ODOT will begin a project to reduce serious injury and fatal crossover crashes along a nearly three-mile section of the highway east of Rhododendron.
Once the project starts, travelers can avoid delays by adjusting travel times when visiting the mountain.
ODOT is hosting a virtual open house at www.US26MtHoodSafetyOpenHouse.org so people who use U.S. 26 to visit Mt. Hood can learn about how this project will affect their travel plans for the next three years starting in April.
Travelers will be able to reach their destinations on U.S. 26 during construction, planning now will help them avoid long delays.
Starting in April, delays will include up-to one hour closures from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday in the project area and up-to 20 minute traffic stops anytime the contractor is working.
The project includes placing a barrier along a nearly 2.5-mile section of road from east of the Kiwanis Camp Road to just east of the Mirror Lake Trailhead to reduce severe crashes.
In this section of U.S. 26, 75 crashes have occurred; 21 crashes were cross-over crashes, three people died and 69 people were injured between 2001 and 2011.
Work will also include cutting back the rock slope on the north side of the highway between Kiwanis Camp Road and the Mirror Lake Trailhead. The slopes are close to the roadway and both sites see dangerous rockfalls. Vehicles often hit the rocks, causing damage, or crashing after swerving to avoid rocks in the roadway.
ODOT also will extend the westbound passing lane for a total of 1,400 feet to give drivers more space to file into a single lane of traffic. Currently, the passing lanes end in curvy sections of the road, which is dangerous and confusing to drivers.
This project will also pave nearly eight miles of U.S. 26 between Rhododendron and OR 35.