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Sandy River Bridge project leads the way for area improvements
Visitors to the Sandy River will have better access to surrounding areas
Sandy River Bridge and parks
When summer temperatures in the Portland metro area soar, locals flock daily to the Sandy River near Troutdale to enjoy its cool waters that run fresh from the snow-melted caps of nearby Mount Hood.
 
With such heavy use of the river and its surroundings likely only to increase in the coming years, the agencies in charge of these recreational areas — the U.S. Forest Service and Oregon Parks & Recreation Department — have been working to keep visitors safe and the natural environment in tip-top shape.
 
When the Oregon Department of Transportation began the Interstate 84 Sandy River Bridge replacement project nearby, the three agencies together saw an opportunity to improve not only recreationists' access to the river, via the highway, but their enjoyment of it, too.
 
"ODOT was already working nearby to replace the Sandy River Bridge, so playing a part in making improvements adjacent to our right of way was a natural fit," said Ron Reisdorf, ODOT senior construction engineer. "USFS and OPRD are great partners to ODOT, and we often look for opportunities to work with them on upgrades to surrounding areas where bridge projects are taking place."
 
The most significant upgrade users will notice is to the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. When completed in 2016, the trail will allow cyclists and pedestrians to travel from Troutdale to The Dalles without having to use the interstate.
 
"The state trail opens a window for one-of-a-kind picturesque views of the Gorge, and it is a safer route for cyclists who currently have to share I-84 with motor vehicles," said Kevin Price, district manager of OPRD.
 
Another improvement is the addition of a pedestrian tunnel, which will allow users to safely cross under the highway to and from the USFS property One Thousand Acres.
 
"The new tunnel lets pedestrians get from parking areas to their destination safely, whether that is the river or the new trail," said Stan Hinatsu, recreation program manager at USFS.
 
When the new eastbound bridge and tunnel open, scheduled for spring 2012, they will potentially increase the number of visitors to the Sandy River and the Gorge. To accommodate vehicles at the river, the agencies will improve the existing unpaved parking areas off the I-84 exit.
 
Following the I-84 Corridor Strategy Design Guidelines developed to dovetail with those of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, the project team will revegetate the area north of the I-84 interchange that is being used to stage equipment during construction. Pending NSA approval, OPRD hopes to create a new 118-spot parking lot in the existing improvised lot south of the interchange.
 
"Our goal is to connect communities," Price said. "Collaborating with ODOT to improve and make new connections is helping us fulfill this goal."
 
Look for new and improved Sandy River access — whether you’re on four wheels, two wheels or two feet — by 2013.