We're not in Hood River anymore! The Axenstrasse on Lake Thun in Switzerland was the inspiration for the Mitchell Point tunnel on the Columbia River Highway.
The Mitchell Point tunnel was sadly destroyed to control rockfall and provide room for the river level interstate. The project to reconnect the remaining pieces of the original highway is approaching the site of the original tunnel. ODOT is now refining the plan getting the trail across Mitchell Point. It seems a good time to visit the original inspiration, which still exists (in part) on the shores of Lake Thun.
Interested in more detail on how Switzerland tunnels were inspiration for Mitchell Point tunnel. Did engineers on Mitchell Point tunnel travel to Switzerland to see them or just see pictures, etc. Tunnel on highway thru Zion National Park also has smaller windows for quick viewing and/or admitting light.
Buzz on 21st May 2018 @ 7:22am
Interesting. I googled the Axenstrasse in Switzerland. The similarities were striking.
L.E. on 21st May 2018 @ 9:34am
In "Building the Columbia River Highway", Willis, notes that the engineer of that section, Eliot, proposed the tunnel, based on what Lancaster had seen in Switzerland.
spinsur on 21st May 2018 @ 10:15am
There is a number on the stereo card - 1972. At first I was thinking this might be the year, but I didn't think they were still making stereo cards into the seventies. Maybe this is just the number of the card?
kmb on 21st May 2018 @ 2:12pm
my guess is that all the ODOT engineers involved in designing the freeway and blasting/destroying this tunnel are well into their graves.....a really, really sad decision was made to remove them...now we "get" to fix their mistake.
I had no idea that the design came from the Swiss...........yet another GREAT posting!
Arlen Sheldrake on 21st May 2018 @ 3:00pm
I';m sure Hill visited the Swiss roads and tunnel, wonder if Eliot was with him.
When the new two lane was put in around Mitchell I often looked at the filled windows thinking what a great restaurant it would make, a view over the river with living area in one end.
When the road was widened to four lanes it seems it took a year of blasting and closed road at night, I was glad to be payed by the hour.. Could have been double deck road and saved a lot of powder and the tunnel.
Kenn on 21st May 2018 @ 4:08pm
North of Yakima on old 97 (now Canyon Road) there remain twin tunnels almost twins to the Mosier twin tunnels. They are now bypassed but can be seen and walked just above the present Canyon Road.
Kenn on 21st May 2018 @ 4:14pm
I sometimes think that highway engineers get a perverse pleasure from destroying what previous generations of engineers built or some natural setting, whether it is blasting out an old tunnel or putting a railroad bridge right over Celilo Falls.
Longshot on 22nd May 2018 @ 8:59am
A few comments on this:
John Elliott, the engineer who designed the Mitchell Point tunnel, said he saw pictures of the Axenstrasse when studying engineering at the University of Washington. He desired to improve upon it-- the Axenstrasse was considerably shorter, and the portals were constructed with masonry. He wanted to contruct it all of existing rock.
On the "destruction" issue: I think it's easy to criticize the destruction, but studying the rights-of-way for the railroad and two highways, the undercut nature of the point, the historic rockfalls-- it's not clear they had a better option in the 1950s. I've been reading Elliott's analysis of the rock face and how he worked around the railroad right-of-way in the initial design-- the practical design alternatives for the river level highway were very limited.
On the reconstruction: the Columbia River Highway Advisory Commission voted yesterday to recommend "option 2C" with some modifications. This is an alignment which uses the original shelf where the tunnel was as part of the roadway, then instead of spanning the chasm where the viaduct was it will tunnel into the rock for a 570 foot length, with adits for views and light. Engineers are refining the design now, so more about this later!
Arthur on 22nd May 2018 @ 11:11am