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McKenzie Highway (OR 242)
McKenzie Highway News

Plowing begins on McKenzie Highway
Maintenance Snow plowing on McKenzie Highway spring 2016crews began plowing the McKenzie Highway in early April in preparation of its opening to motor vehicles this summer. 

The highway opened to motor vehicles on Monday, June 20, 2016 for the summer season.

The McKenzie Highway (OR 242) travels through Lane, Linn, and Deschutes counties, beginning at the junction with OR 126 near McKenzie Bridge and ending at the junction with US Highway 20 and OR 126 at the City of Sisters. 
The McKenzie Highway is part of the McKenzie Pass - Santiam Pass National Scenic Byway. Through part of the project area, OR 242 travels between two federal wilderness areas, and there are many historic, recreational, and scenic features and sites along the route. The boundaries of the Mt. Washington Wilderness and Three Sisters Wilderness are 66 feet from the highway centerline. 
The highway route was originally built with private funds in the 1870's as a wagon toll road. The section between the towns of Blue River in Lane County and Sisters in Deschutes County (which includes the project area) became a Forest Road in 1919 (Oregon State Highway Commission, 1920). The road was relocated and widened in 1920, graded and surfaced between 1920 and 1924, and became a Oregon State Highway in 1925.  

The McKenzie Pass Highway became a seasonal scenic highway in 1962 with the completion of the Clear Lake-Belknap Springs section of OR 126. Even during its tenure as the main route between the southern Willamette Valley and Central Oregon, the narrow, twisting roadway and high elevation (5,325 feet) made the highway too difficult to maintain and keep clear during the winter months.
Since this time, ODOT closes the highway each fall and reopens it in early summer after the snow melts. During the summer, about 300 cars a day travel the highway.​

To learn more about the scenic byway click here.
For the most current road conditions for the McKenzie Highway visit TripCheck.com.
Opening and Closing Dates
A list of the opening and close dates for the McKenzie Highway back to 1925 can be found here.
Keep Yourself Informed
Picture of an envelope that is also a link to GovDelivery website. Sign up for email alerts to received current McKenzie Highway news.
McKenzie Highway Project 2007-2009
Description of Work 
  • Completed in 2007:  Stabilized the roadway at the steep switchbacks ("Dead Horse Grade") near Mile Post (MP) 69
  • Summer 2008:  Replace the two bridges at MP 66.7  and MP 68.4
  • Summer 2009:  Repave approximately 15 miles of the roadway
This was a joint project between the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the US Forest Service and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT).

The project was located along approximately 15.4 miles of the McKenzie Highway.  It began at White Branch snow gate in Lane County, approximately six miles east of the junction of OR 126 and OR 242, MP 61.9. It ended just east of McKenzie Pass and the Dee Wright Observatory in Deschutes County, at approximately MP 77.3.

Purpose and Need for the Project
This project helped to maintain access to National Forest lands and existing recreation opportunities in the project vicinity and provide a safe and durable roadway for current and projected traffic while maintaining the historic and scenic qualities of the highway. 
OR 242 provides the only access to a number of popular recreation sites on National Forest lands, as well as access for fire protection and response to public emergencies, such as search and rescue. The project was needed because the pavement was failing throughout the project corridor, a section of steep slopes near MP 69 is failing, and two small bridges, at MP 66.7 and at MP 68.4, were in poor condition.

The project was funded by the Federal Highway Trust Fund. Approximately $3.8 million of federal funding was programmed for the project.

ODOT Contacts

 Name  Title  Email Address
 Peter Murphy  Public Information Officer  Peter.W.Murphy@odot.state.or.us
 Abbey Driscoll  Community Liaison  Abbey.Driscoll@odot.state.or.us