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A view down the Historic Columbia River Highway showing cars parked bumper to bumper on both sides of the highway and pedestrians walking along the highway to and from their cars, surrounded by trees.The beauty of the Columbia River Gorge attracts more visitors each year, increasing traffic congestion on the two-lane Historic Columbia River Highway. 

The Oregon Department of Transportation is working on a plan to address congestion and safety issues, improving the experience for users of the Historic Highway between Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint and Ainsworth State Park.  

  • Learn more about the Oregon Department of Transportation’s plans to address safety concerns and improve the experience for visitors and residents alike.

  • Provide your feedback to help inform the project team’s next steps. 

For ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) or Civil Rights Title VI accommodations, translation/interpretation services, or more information call 503 731 4128, TTY 800 735 2900 or Oregon Relay Service 7 1 1


Introduction to the Historic Columbia River Highway Congestion and Transportation Safety Improvement Plan
Where is all the traffic coming from?
Learn more about ODOT's strategies to improve safety along the Historic Highway
What do you think ODOT should do to address safety and traffic concerns?
Stay engaged! Connect with the project team and stay tuned for updates this winter.

Project overview

For over 100 years, thousands of drivers, cyclists and hikers have used the Historic Highway to access the grandeur and beauty of the Columbia River Gorge. As the population grows in the Portland metro area, even more people seek out the natural and cultural splendor of the waterfall corridor. 

To address the resulting congestion and safety challenges, this plan aims to:

  • Enhance safety for all users of the Historic Highway.

  • Reduce excessive delays due to traffic back-ups.

  • Minimize conflicts between vehicles, people using bicycles, and pedestrians.

  • Provide improved access for recreational and scenic enjoyment while recognizing the historic and cultural context of the Historic Highway corridor.

  • Identify sustainable funding sources to implement strategies.

Study area: Focusing on the Waterfall Zone

The study area for the plan includes the drivable portion of the Historic Highway and connecting Multnomah County roads between the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint and Ainsworth State Park. The study area also includes parking facilities for trailheads and viewpoints, including the Multnomah Falls parking lot on I-84. 

2017 Fires

The Eagle Creek Fire of 2017 closed the Historic Highway, I-84 and popular destinations along the waterfall corridor. 

Part of the Historic Highway remains closed following the Eagle Creek Fire. Tree felling and hazard removal work continues throughout the area, and many popular destinations and trails along the waterfall corridor remain closed. Once the area is safe, we expect these visitor numbers to return to prevous levels. 

This plan will consider the effects of the fire when developing strategies to address traffic congestion and safety in the future.

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  • Map of the study area focusing on the waterfall corridor.

    Map of the study area focusing on the waterfall corridor.

  • A view of the gorge from Crown Point.

    A view of the gorge from Crown Point.

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Existing conditions

National Geographic Travel Magazine lists the Gorge as the 6th best travel destination in the world. The Historic Highway has heavy congestion, especially during the summer and on other fair-weather weekends. This time-lapse video shows what takes place in a single hour on the weekend:

Most significant congestion and delay occurs in the eastern segment, between Bridal Veil Road and Ainsworth State Park. In the past 10 years, traffic along the Historic Highway grew nearly 50 percent as millions of tourists and recreation users visited the Gorge. Travelers experience significant delays on the Historic Highway from parking maneuvers and pedestrian activities, particularly during peak travel season. 

On a typical summer weekend, travel along the Historic Highway is delayed by:

  • Vehicles circulating and idling in the roadway waiting to turn into parking lots or park along the side of the road.

  • Slow turnover rates at parking lots with higher demand for spaces than supply.

  • Vehicles waiting for pedestrians to cross the Historic Highway; over 1,000 people crossing every hour near Multnomah Falls.

  • Visitor growth over a longer “high season” and busy fair-weather days.

  • Large vehicles causing back-ups.

  • Vehicles re-entering the roadway from the shoulder or parking lots.

These challenges have created negative experiences for users and impacts to the area.

For more details review the Existing Conditions Summary.

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Average Seasonal Traffic by Month on the Historic Highway (2015)

  • Average Seasonal Traffic by Month on the Historic Highway (2015)

    Average Seasonal Traffic by Month on the Historic Highway (2015)

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Solutions tool box

ODOT and our partners are reviewing many different tools to determine which will best improve safety and reduce congestion in the Historic Highway.

These tools generally fall into five categories: capacity improvements, technology systems, transit, mobility improvements and experience improvements.

Capacity improvements 

Capacity improvements refer to tools that can accommodate more people without adding more vehicles to congested parking conditions. Some examples: 

  • Provide transit and shuttle services
  • Expand park-and-ride facilities (outside the Historic Highway corridor)
  • Tour bus use

Technology systems

Technology systems refer to tools that use computers, detectors, sensors, or other forms of technology to collect or provide information to system users or administrators. Some examples:

  • Entrance, transit, or parking fee prepayment
  • Closed-circuit cameras
  • Media, social media, and apps
  • Dynamic and variable message signs
  • Traffic monitoring, data collection and analysis
  • Real-time parking information, user-generated parking data, and dynamic parking occupancy counters


Transit refers to public transportation such as buses or shuttles. It can also include private transit like a tour bus. Some examples:

  • Provide or add capacity to transit and shuttle services
  • Transit technology
  • Tour bus use

Mobility improvements

Mobility tools refer to operational improvements or programs that reduce delay for roadway users. That could include less congestion for vehicles, or the ability for transit or bicycles to move more efficiently. Some examples:

  • Expand or improve bicycle and pedestrian facilities
  • Crossing guards or grade separated crossings at busy pedestrian locations
  • Parking management and enforcement
  • Traffic enforcement and management 
  • Traffic circulation changes (e.g., 2-way to 1-way)
  • Vehicle use restrictions

Experience improvements

Experience improvements refer to any program, tool, or operational change that are focused primarily on improving visitor experience. Some examples:

  • Grade separated bicycle and pedestrian crossings
  • Signage and wayfinding
  • Reserved parking stalls
  • Vehicle use restrictions
  • Promoting bicycle and pedestrian travel
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Improving transit options is one of the tools ODOT is considering to address congestion issues.

  • Improving transit options is one of the tools ODOT is considering to address congestion issues.

    Improving transit options is one of the tools ODOT is considering to address congestion issues.

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Have your say

To address congestion and safety issues on the Historic Highway, ODOT and its partners have proposed a combination of potential tools, including:

  • Continuing current programs and policies

  • Parking improvements

  • Transit and roadway improvements

A combination of different strategies is being considered, which would be phased in over time, starting with ‘baseline’ improvements (near-term and low cost projects)  followed by more intensive solutions once certain thresholds in visitor numbers and user volumes are reached.

Tell us what you think!

Click here to open the survey in a new window.

Questions marked with an asterisk * are required questions. Thank you for your time!

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Talk to the project team

A view of the Columbia River Gorge on a cloudy day with an evergreen tree partially obstructing the view on the left. You can connect with the project team at one of the three events listed below.

Drop-in Sessions:

Open House:

Monday, May 21, 2018, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. 

Cascade Locks Marine Park Pavilion

395 SW Portage Rd, Cascade Locks

Stay engaged! Sign up for the project newsletter.

Next Steps

Thank you for participating and sharing your input. ODOT will use your feedback to inform their evaluation of potential scenarios and refine the Congestion and Transportation Safety Improvement Plan. 

The project team expects to complete the Plan in winter 2018, after reviewing feedback shared online and at other community events. 

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Project schedule

  • Project schedule

    Project schedule

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