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US 26 is a US Highway in the US state of Oregon. The road runs from Seaside on the Pacific coast through Portland, through the Cascade Mountains, and then a long stretch through sparsely populated eastern Oregon to the Idaho border at Nyssa. In Portland, US 26 is partially a freeway. US 26 is 713 kilometers long in Oregon.
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Portland’s Vista Ridge Tunnels.
Western Oregon & Portland
US 26 begins at a trumpet connection with US 101 south of Seaside, close to the Pacific coast. The road then heads inland, southeast through the Oregon Coast Range. For the first 50 miles to the Portland metropolitan area, US 26 is a single carriageway through the woods with no real places on the route. This is a sparsely populated region with few roads. After Banks one enters the Willamette Valley, where Portland ‘s western suburbs are located. The US 26 is immediately a freeway. The highway is 30 kilometers long and leads through the western suburbs. Most of it is flat, but between the suburbs and the city of Portland itself is a ridge where the highway crosses a low mountain pass and descends nearly 200 meters on the Portland side into the city, following a junction with Interstate 405.
In Portland, US 26 follows I-405 for a while along the southwest side of downtown and intersects Interstate 5. One crosses the Willamette River via a bridge, after which the US 26 forms a low-quality city road for more than 20 kilometers through the eastern suburbs and suburb Gresham. There is another connection there to Interstate 205. Between Gresham and Sandy, US 26 was briefly better developed as a 2×2 divided highway. After Sandy, US 26 enters the Cascade Mountains.
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US 26 through Picture Gorge in eastern Oregon.
US 26 then follows a route through the Cascades, past the base of Mount Hood volcano, which is 3,425 meters high. US 26 leads directly over the slopes and rises to 1,200 meters above sea level in the hamlet of Government Camp. Then US 26 heads southeast out of the mountain range to the arid steppe of eastern Oregon. You eventually reach the town of Madras, where you cross the US 97. East of Madras, US 26 runs for a long time through mountainous areas and canyons in sparsely populated eastern Oregon.
From Madras, US 26 first heads south-east for 45 kilometers to Prineville, which lies at an altitude of 900 meters. Then US 26 runs through lonely areas. The mountains in this region are up to 2000 meters high and US 26 rises to about 1300 meters. The US 26 then leads through the beautiful Picture Gorge, a canyon in a desert-like landscape. US 26 then follows the narrow valley of the John Day River eastwards. This is a small river where some farming is possible on the banks. In the valley is also a short double number with US 395.
US 26 follows the John Day River valley about 100 miles east, before ascending through the Strawberry Range. The road itself reaches about 1,600 meters above sea level, the mountains in the area have peaks between 2000 and 2700 meters. The higher parts of the route lead through wooded areas, the lower parts through bare steppe. There are hardly any villages on the route, and there are hardly any important roads to cross. US 26 then gradually descends to a lower area around the Snake River at about 700 meters altitude. Agriculture is possible on a larger scale here. From Vale, US 26 coincides with US 20. At the town of Nyssa one crosses the Snake River, which also forms the border with Idaho. US 26 in Idahothen continues to Parma and Boise.
US 26 with a view of Mount Hood.
US 26 was one of the original US Highways of 1926, but originally formed little more than a short regional route in western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming. US 26 was extended westward through Wyoming, Idaho and eventually into Oregon between 1948 and 1952. US 26 originally ran all the way to Astoria, the last section was double numbered with US 101. In 2003 this double numbering was deleted and US 26 starts at US 101 near Cannon Beach.
The old tracks of the route were State Route 2 between Seaside and Portland, State Route 50 between Portland and Madras, State Route 27 between Madras and Prineville, and US 28 between Prineville and Ontario. In 1952 this entire route became US 26.
On December 21, 1926, the Ross Island Bridge opened over the Willamette River in Portland. This was the first bridge on this site and was part of a series of projects to build bridges over the Willamette River during the 1920s.
The original route from Portland to the coast at Astoria and Seaside was on what is now US 30, which follows the Columbia River valley. Later, the Sunset Highway was developed as a shorter route from Portland to the coast.
This new road link began construction in 1932, as a Works Progress Administration project to combat unemployment during the economic depression. Portions of the road opened in 1941, but World War II delayed completion of the Sunset Highway until 1949.
The highway in the western suburbs of Portland was built in the late 1960s, the Vista Ridge Tunnels were opened in 1969 and 1970. This is Portland’s northwest approach road. In the past, there were also plans for the Mount Hood Freeway between Portland and Sandy, as a southeast approach road to the Portland area. These plans were scrapped in the 1970s during the freeway revolts.
The section through the Cascade Mountains was paved in the early 1930s, despite the fact that the road was not yet a US Highway and had less significance than US 30 along the Columbia River. In that period the paved road turned to Maupin. The more direct route to Madras was built in the late 1940s and was probably completed around 1950. This shortened the route from Portland to Madras by more than 50 kilometers. The old route is now numbered as State Route 216.
Originally there was no road connection between Madras and Prineville, traffic had to detour through Redmond. The direct route was built during the Second World War and was completed around 1944. East of Prineville, the road was originally developed as US 28, which ran from Florence to Ontario as an east-west route through Oregon from 1926 to 1952, although in western Oregon it was further south than today’s US 26.
In the early 1930s, the asphalting of the then US 28 in eastern Oregon was started. By 1940 there were still several unpaved stretches, and it was not until shortly after the Second World War that the last parts in the east of the state were asphalted, the last being an approximately 35 kilometer long section through Ochoco National Forest east of Prineville, which at the time covered a whole area. new route was constructed, the old route is now a forest service road. This was completed around 1950.
The Portland metropolitan highway section has between 109,000 and 152,000 vehicles per day, with the busiest point off I-405.