History of Interstate 84 in Oregon

I-84’s predecessor was US 30, also known as the Old Oregon Trail Highway. This was a strategic hinterland route, but the interior of Oregon was sparsely populated, so traffic was limited in the early 20th century. By 1920 the first 100 kilometers from Portland to Hood River had already been paved. The road was an improved gravel road as far as Pendleton, east of which the road was still in poor condition. In about 1923, the road was paved between Hood River and The Dalles, paving the entire route through the canyon of the Columbia River.

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When US 30 was introduced in 1926, the road was unpaved east of The Dalles. With the introduction of US 30, it was clear that this route was prioritized for asphalting, which was rapidly implemented and completed in the early 1930s in eastern Oregon, between The Dalles and the border with the state of Idaho.

Banfield Expressway, Portland

I-84 was the first interstate highway in Oregon. In 1947, the Oregon government gave the Highway Commission the ability to restrict access to state highways, thus not automatically connecting every parcel to the road, the concept of a limited-access highway. In 1952, $40 million in bonds was issued to build roads. High on the priority list was US 30, which provides access to Portland from the east. Traffic originally used Sandy Boulevard, a diagonal road from Downtown Portland to the Columbia River. This road was filled with shops and homes, so plans were made in the 1930s for a diversion, which were not implemented because of the Second World War.

Construction of a modern road started in the late 1940s. On October 1, 1955, the 20-mile stretch from 42nd Avenue to Troutdale opened to traffic. This was the first expressway in Oregon. The highway was named after TH Banfield, the chairman of the Oregon State Highway Commission who died in 1950. The motorway has since been known as ‘The Banfield’. Several years later, the western portion of the highway opened between the Willamette River at Downtown Portland and 42nd Avenue. This gave access to the Steel Bridge and Burnside Street, although an interchange with Interstate 5 was later constructed.

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The TH Banfield Expressway was part of US 30 when it opened. When the Interstate Highway system was introduced in 1956, this route was numbered I-80N. The highway was known by this number for decades, not until 1980 was I-80N renumbered to I-84. During the 1980s, the Banfield Expressway in Portland was widened to 2×3 lanes and a light rail was built next to it. The widened portion originally ended just west of 181st Avenue, and in the early 1990s, I-84 was further widened to Marine Drive at Troutdale, reconstructing more or less the entire original Banfield Expressway. Between 2010 and 2014, the bridge over the Sandy River on the east side of Troutdale was replaced. No real road widening has been carried out.

Mount Hood Freeway, Portland

In the 1960s, plans arose to build I-80N over a new route, the so-called ‘Mount Hood Freeway’. It would replace the Banfield Expressway and run further south between Division Street and Powell Boulevard, a five-mile project. Contrary to the Banfield Expressway’s outdated design requirements, the Mount Hood Freeway would be less winding and provide a new connection to downtown Portland. The project was first formally presented in 1965 and further developed in 1968. Opposition from local residents and the energy crisis of 1973 caused the plan to be canceled by Portland City Council in 1974. In 1976, this section of I-80N was formally scrapped as part of the planned Interstate Highways in the United States.

I-84 in the rest of Oregon

I-84 between Baker City and Durkee in Eastern Oregon.

The lane fork at Cabbage Hill east of Pendleton.

Elsewhere in Oregon, it was planned to replace US 30. Between Portland and The Dalles, US 30 passed through the Columbia River Gorge, a deep gorge of the mighty Columbia River. It was developed as the segment from Troutdale to The Dalles, connecting to the Banfield Expressway in the Portland area, opened in 1955. The first upgrades to the US 30 took place in the 1930s. I-84 was built here over a more modern route, the old US 30 had hairpin bends and sometimes large differences in elevation, I-84 was built directly over the bank of the Columbia River and was 13 kilometers shorter than US 30 despite both routes being parallel to passed each other. Between Dodson and Bonneville, US 30 had already been upgraded, having simply doubled to 2×2 lanes in 1962. The section between Troutdale and The Dalles had been largely upgraded to Interstate Highway in 1963, but sections were more difficult to construct. The section between Cascade Locks and Hood River was not completed until 1969.

The section through the Columbia River Gorge is considered one of the most spectacular highways in the United States. The highway leads through a whole series of natural parks and two major waterfalls, namely Bridal Veil Falls and Multnomah Falls. The latter can be accessed directly from I-84 with a parking lot in the median strip of I-84 and a pedestrian tunnel under the highway to the waterfall. The transition of the landscape is also special, from tropical rainforests at Portland to semi-deserts at The Dalles.

Between The Dalles and Pendleton is a 200-kilometer stretch where the highway has been built almost everywhere directly over US 30. US 30 was built here in the 1950’s as a modern highway and could easily be doubled. In the early years of the Interstate Highway program there were plans to leave very quiet stretches single-lane for the time being, the US 30 was also a candidate for this. Ultimately, it was decided to always construct Interstate Highways with 2×2 lanes. I-84 was built between The Dalles and Pendleton during the late 1950s and 1960s. By 1964, 225 kilometers of I-84 in Oregon had already been opened.

The easternmost section of I-84 in Eastern Oregon had a very different character, with very sparsely populated areas and mountainous terrain. The mountain passes required considerable engineering work to construct a suitable route. Construction on I-84 began in the 1960s around the larger towns such as La Grande, Baker City, and Ontario. Particularly noteworthy was the section from Pendleton to Meacham, where I-84 rises from 400 to 1,100 meters above sea level over Emigrant Hill. To overcome the difference in height, the lanes are separated, on this stretch of 7 kilometers as the crow flies, 500 meters in height are overcome, it is one of the longest slopes of an Interstate Highway in the United States. Construction of I-84 was given even more priority after I-5 was completed in 1966, but construction did not progress so quickly given the great distances and rugged terrain. Construction stretched well into the 1970s, with the last section of I-84 opening on July 3, 1975.

Opening history

Dates are indicative

from nasty length date
Exit 2 42nd Avenue Exit 17 Troutdale 20 km 01-10-1955
Exit 0 I-5 Exit 2 42nd Avenue 3 km 00-00-195x
Exit 28 Bridal Veil Road Exit 35 Dodson 11 km 00-00-1957
Exit 17 Troutdale Exit 28 Bridal Veil Road 14 km 00-00-1960
Exit 64 Hood River Exit 85 The Dalles 34 km 00-00-1961
Exit 234 Meacham Exit 252 Hilgard Highway 29 km 00-00-1961
Exit 374 Ontario Idaho state line 3 km 00-00-1961
Exit 35 Dodson Exit 40 Bonneville 8 km 00-00-1962
Exit 252 Hilgard Highway Exit 259 La Grande (west) 11 km 00-00-1962
Exit 228 Old Emigrant Road Exit 234 Meacham 10 km 00-00-1962
Exit 306 Baker City (East) Exit 317 Old US Hwy 30 19 km 00-00-1963
Exit 356 Olds Ferry-Ontario Highway Exit 374 Ontario (1st rc ) 29 km 00-00-1963
Exit 40 Bonneville Exit 44 Cascade Locks 6 km 00-00-1964
Exit 109 Rufus Exit 123 Quinton Canyon Road 23 km 00-00-1965
Exit 137 Arlington Exit 159 Tower Road 35 km 00-00-1965
Exit 62 Hood River (west) Exit 64 Hood River 3 km 00-00-1966
Exit 159 Tower Road Exit 168 US 730 14 km 00-00-1966
Exit 85 The Dalles Exit 109 Rufus 39 km 00-00-1967
Exit 123 Quinton Canyon Road Exit 137 Arlington 23 km 00-00-1967
Exit 168 US 730 Exit 171 Paterson Ferry Road 5 km 00-00-1967
Exit 317 Old US Hwy 30 Exit 330 Plano Road 21 km 00-00-1967
Exit 342 Lime Exit 356 Olds Ferry-Ontario Highway 23 km 00-00-1967
Exit 44 Cascade Locks Exit 62 Hood River (west) 29 km 00-00-1968
Exit 171 Paterson Ferry Road Exit 188 Stanfield 27 km 00-00-1968
Exit 188 Stanfield Exit 207 Pendleton (west) 31 km 00-00-1969
Exit 207 Pendleton (west) Exit 213 Pendleton (East) 10 km 00-00-1970
Exit 213 Pendleton (East) Exit 216 Mission 5 km 00-00-1972
Exit 285 North Powder Exit 306 Baker City (East) 34 km 00-00-1973
Exit 330 Plano Road Exit 342 Lime 19 km 00-00-1973
Exit 259 La Grande (west) Exit 273 frontage road 23 km 00-00-1974
Exit 356 Olds Ferry-Ontario Highway Exit 374 Ontario (2nd rc ) 29 km 00-00-1974
Exit 216 Mission Exit 228 Old Emigrant Road 19 km 00-00-1975
Exit 273 frontage road Exit 285 North Powder 19 km 03-07-1975

Traffic intensities

Multnomah Falls, directly accessible from I-84.

Every day, 147,000 to 167,000 vehicles run between I-5 and I-205 in Portland, after I-205, 112,000 vehicles a day, dropping to 85,000 vehicles past Gresham and 35,000 vehicles near Troutdale. The section through the Columbia River Gorge has 25,000 to 30,000 vehicles per day, descending slightly towards The Dalles. East of The Dalles, intensities are even lower, with some 12,000 vehicles as far as Boardman and a peak of 18,000 vehicles at the I-82 interchange. After that, 16,000 vehicles drive up to Pendleton and mostly 10,000 to 11,000 vehicles per day on the rest of the route between Pendleton and Ontario. At the border with Idaho, there is still a peak of 19,000 vehicles per day.

History of Interstate 84 in Oregon


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