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Construction to begin on road to Vista House

Crews will try to stabilize historic slide area

Contractors will set to work Monday, Oct. 23, hitching up the slumping roadway to Vista House and hooking it back on the side of the Columbia Gorge cliff near Larch Mountain Road.

Soil tests conducted by state highway officials Monday or Tuesday will determine if the sagging roadway is stable enough to permit passage of school buses and mail and emergency vehicles during the 20 days it will take to repair the highway. If not, that traffic will also have to use the historic highway from Bridal Veil west in order to reach the east side of Crown Point.

The half-mile stretch just past the intersection of Larch Mountain Road is a historic slide area and the work will likely result in the closure of Vista House, which depends on traffic along the old highway to keep the doors open.

'The slope is just so steep,' said Farshad Yazdidoust, project coordinator. Highway engineers plan to dig down as much as 15 feet to existing rock gabions (basically bundles of rock in wire), to replace the underpinning of the roadway and stabilize the roadbed.

Dirt and Aggregate Interchange Inc. of Fairview has the contract for the $350,000 project. The guardrails will be reinstalled and the highway will receive a temporary layer of pavement until a final paving job can be completed in June or July.

Vista House Director Louise Yarbrough said the visitor center may close during the week 'because we can't afford to pay staff to sit here and look at each other.' Yarbrough hopes to keep Vista House open on weekends as long as the weather is good.

Yazdidoust said the Oregon Department of Transportation will post signs advising travelers to use Exit 28 at Bridal Veil to reach Vista House. Signs along all parts of the historic highway and Interstate 84 will advise visitors of the closure.