Still no estimate to reopen Highway 224
Hazard tree removal begins this week
Oregon Department of Transportation officials are not yet ready to give an estimate for the reopening of Highway 224.
Highway 224 has been closed roughly between mileposts 31 and 38 since the 36 Pit Fire, which burned east of Estacada for over a month this fall.
The fire burned away undergrowth from the steep slopes bordering the highway and heavy rains intensified the areas instability.
The highway remained closed to the general public, but ODOT workers escorted nearby residents and workers (with identification) through the closure area during daylight hours.
Landslides on Nov. 5 and 6 near Milepost 36 buried both lanes of the highway and pushed a rock-containment fence out into the roadway.
Escorts were temporarily halted, but have since resumed piloting approved residents and workers through the closure area during daylight hours.
Timber Lake Job Corps students have returned after being sent home in mid-November when staff deemed the blocked highway and threat of a snow storm a safety risk.
Kimberly Dinwiddie, an ODOT public information officer, said that a contractor is working to prepare the guardrail and geologists are continuing to assess the slope conditions and rock fall risk.
Chris Bentley, a spokesman for the Mount Hood National Forest, said that Government Camp Snow Removal has been contracted to remove up to 300 hazardous trees near the highway.
Bentley said Government Camp Snow Removal will remain on contract for 2-3 years to remove additional hazardous trees, as needed.
As the geology of the area has drastically changed, Bentley said more hazardous trees may be identified in the future.
Bentley said cutting is scheduled to begin on Dec. 9 or 10.
Cutting will not impact ODOT escorts for approved residents and workers through the area.
"The cutting shouldn't affect pilot cars," he said.
For more information and updates on the Highway 224 closure visit www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/REGION1/Pages/OR224HazardsClosure.aspx.