Visitors come to Mt. Hood from around the world to enjoy the beauty of our mountains and forest. The mountain is a popular year-round destination for Oregon and Washington residents for its many recreation opportunities – hiking, camping, birding, cycling, golfing, swimming and boating, skiing and snow play. Mt Hood is an economic driver in the state; there are between two and five million visitors annually to the Mt. Hood National Forest. Vibrant rural communities welcome travelers and residents along the Mt. Hood Highway in both Clackamas and Hood River counties.
Stunning views greet the traveler along the Mt. Hood Highway (US 26-OR 35), a designated National Scenic Byway. The road provides access to an abundance of natural, cultural and historic resources. The highway provides access to recreational area and rural communities in the northern portion of the Mt. Hood National Forest. The highway is an important freight route for local as well as statewide trucking, and also serves as a primary connection between Portland Metro, Central Oregon, and the Columbia River Gorge. Visitors, residents and employees primarily travel to the mountain by car, although there is some private and public transit serving the area.
Visitors' diverse travel destinations and purposes create challenges for the Mt. Hood Highway. Through traffic and recreation-destination travel results in heavy congestion during peak times, particularly winter and summer weekends. The Mt Hood Highway east of the City of Sandy and south of the City of Hood River is an ODOT-designated Safety Corridor due to its relatively high volume of crashes—most occurring in winter during inclement weather. Congestion is exacerbated by poor weather conditions and safety incidents.
ODOT has been working with agency and community partners to increase education and enforcement along the Mt. Hood Highway Safety Corridor. ODOT has focused transportation improvement funding on safety and preservation projects on US 26 and OR 35. Approximately $27 million in safety and preservation improvements on the Mt. Hood Highway are currently being designed for the corridor, with construction set to begin during the next two years. In addition, previous planning efforts identified the provision of travel options (transit, intelligent transportation systems, carpooling, traveler information, etc.) as a key way to enhance traveler access and reduce peak travel demand. ODOT has implemented ITS improvements such as variable message signs to help improve driver awareness and safety. A $4.9 million ITS enhancement project for US26 and OR 35 is programmed for construction in 2014.
A Project Management Team (PMT) comprised of partner agencies and the consultant team will manage the day to day activities of the MHMTP project. The partner agencies are: Clackamas County, Hood River County, US Forest Service and the Federal Highway Administration-Western Federal Lands Highway Division. A Technical Working Group (TWG) will review baseline conditions and contribute their expertise to evaluate the technical feasibility of potential projects. The TWG will have two sub-committees: safety and travel options.
The Project Leadership Group (PLG), consisting of decision-makers from the Partner agencies, will consider technical and stakeholder input. At the close of Phase 1, the PLG will determine which projects and programs have sufficient support and feasibility to warrant further exploration in Phase 2.
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