January 3, 2019 / Comments (0)

The Best of Snow, the Worst of Traffic

waerming hut

With a 70-inch snow base at 6,000 feet, the 2018-19 Mount Hood ski and snowboard is officially in full swing.

A series of substantial winter storms including one that dumped 25 inches of snow in 24 hours rescued mountain resorts just in time for the holiday season. Mt. Hood Meadows opened Heather Canyon and Private Reserve. Timberline was packed. Even low-elevation Skibowl got in the action, with fresh snow in the Lower and Upper Bowls and good times in the Historic Warming Hut.

An Annual Transportation System Failure

But with the snow and the holidays came the traffic. Thousands of cars headed up Highway 26 from Metro Portland to Hood, and sadly not all of them were equipped for winter driving. The same can be said for the drivers of those cars, some of whom mismanaged their bald-tired, no-chain, rear-wheel-drive junkers with jaw-dropping cluelessness.

As usual, ODOT and the Oregon State Police took a hands-off approach to the situation, which soon spiraled out of control on the most crowded days. Multiple car pile-ups on mountain roads and access roads, jack-knifed trucks blocking traffic, mile-long lines of vehicles stuck for hours on end, these are annual occurrences on Highways 26 and 35, where enforcement of winter driving laws remains lax. Several Shred Hood readers reported five-hour trips to travel 25 miles from the Meadows parking lot to Welches, or four hours to cover the eight miles from Meadows to Govy.

Is it fair to describe Mount Hood during the winter holidays as a transportation failure?

I would argue yes. What do you think?

The Oregon Department of Transportation recently spent $25 million on widening lanes, installing a concrete median barrier, building a ditch to contain falling rocks and re-paving the highway from Silent Rock to OR 35. But while these improvements may improve safety on one section of the downhill portion of the drive to Portland, they do nothing to fix the persistent congestion problem between Meadows and Government Camp.

So what if anything can be done to improve traffic flow down from the mountain at peak times?

Here are a few possibilities from the Shred Hood community:

  1. Mass Transit: more buses, shuttles, carpools — anything to get cars off the road. Plus incentives to use existing buses and shuttles at peak times.
  2. Slopeside Lodging, to move drivers off the road and into hot tubs.
  3. Two Lanes Westbound the Whole Way: Sounds expensive, but this could be done without widening the road. Simply alternate the middle lane through Govy: Eastbound until noon, Westbound after noon. Use the space that is already cleared for driving by installing electronic signs at key points. And get rid of the merger at the top of the hill just before Timberline.
  4. A stronger police presence, to crack down on unprepared and unsafe drivers.
  5. Aerial Trams. Combined with multi-story parking structures.
  6. Force 18-wheelers to use I-84 instead of I-26.
  7. Learn to Drive.
  8. Ban Mini-Vans
  9. Invent Teleportation.

Okay, so not all of the suggestions from the community were meant to be taken seriously. But some are both serious and worth considering.

How about you? What do you think of the suggestions above, and what are your ideas for fixing the traffic mess on Mount Hood?


Last modified: January 3, 2019

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