Historic Columbia River Highway that surrounds Vista House is now open

The Historic Columbia River Highway is open again following completion of a project to restore the 600-foot viaduct at Crown Point and its 29 support columns.

Hundreds of feet about above the Columbia River, the viaduct built in 1918 surrounds Vista House, a popular tourist destination in Corbett that overlooks the Columbia River Gorge.

At 733 feet above the Columbia River, Crown Point receives more than half a million visitors a year.

Renovation of the viaduct has meant lane closures and at times, full closures of the historic highway that winds around Vista House.

The project was a difficult feat as most of the work took place on a raw, exposed site on the side of a mountain cliff above the gorge, said Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Don Hamilton.

Without restoration, the original viaduct and its support columns were deteriorating, Hamilton said.

The walls eventually would have failed and the road would have required weight restrictions, which would have kept tourist buses, RVs and other large vehicles off the road, he said.

The project included repair and replacement of viaduct columns and footings, strengthening of the viaduct s bottom and top deck and updating of electrical equipment.

The masonry retaining wall below the viaduct structure and a failing section of the roadway also were repaired, said Hamilton.

He said the restoration maintained the structure s original appearance as much as was practical.

The road now called the Historic Columbia River Highway opened in 1916. Two years later, Vista House opened at the Crown Point summit.

The viaduct restoration project was a joint effort of the Federal Highway Administration, Western Federal Lands Highway Division, the Oregon Department of Transportation, and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

While the focus of the project was rehabilitating the Crown Point viaduct, the project included restoration of portions of Historic Columbia River Highway between Larch Mountain Road and Latourell Falls.

Vista House itself, part of the Oregon State Parks system, underwent a five-year restoration, completed in 2005, and was not involved in this project, Hamilton said.

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