I-84 westbound lanes could reopen soon in fire area

But ODOT says at least a week more for eastbound

CASCADE LOCKS, Ore. - Interstate 84 in the Columbia River Gorge remains an active evacuation zone; the Eagle Creek Fire is still burning, having blackened more than 33,000 acres. ODOT said Sunday it is working closely with fire officials to determine when westbound lanes of I-84 can reopen.

Eastbound I-84 will remain closed at least another week — the minimum time required to complete rock removal.

The Historic Columbia River Highway remains closed, with no schedule to reopen. Rocks and trees continue to fall; ODOT said it is working to keep the highway available for firefighters, but the highway is not safe for travel.

Danger trees. ODOT has removed about 2,000 trees that were in danger of falling onto I-84 with about 1,500 remaining to be removed. Tree removal efforts should be finished by early in the coming week.

Rockfall. The biggest impediment to re-opening the highway is the threat of falling rocks, most of them around the Toothrock Tunnel. The work is slow in steep, difficult terrain extending high up onto the hillside.

Bridges. ODOT inspected 70 bridges and culverts along I-84 and found minimal damage. 

Tunnels. An inspection of the 1936 Toothrock Tunnel on I-84 showed minimal rock damage to portals. The liner inside the Oneonta Tunnel on the HCRH completely burned and engineers found unstable rock slopes at each end.

Slide threat. In the weeks ahead, ODOT will be assessing the danger of winter slides in areas where the underbrush has burned away.

"Having I-84 and the Historic Columbia River Highway closed is difficult on everyone who lives in, travels through, or loves the Columbia Gorge," Sunday's update said. "Once it is safe to complete these steps, ODOT will have the roadways open as quickly as possible."

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