Looking east from the Vista House, Interstate 84 follows the Columbia River Highway toward Cascade Locks and Hood River. The freeway hugs the south bank of the massive river, much the same way as Washington State Route 14 hugs the north bank. As the main route east across Oregon, I-84 stays close to the river while the Historic Columbia River Highway (former U.S. 30) follows higher ground along a much more winding course. Photo taken 08/27/06.
The western Interstate 84 is the primary route linking the northwestern cities of Salt Lake City, Boise and Portland. This one of two instances of Interstate 84; the other is the eastern Interstate 84 in Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Interstate 84 in Portland is known as the Banfield Expressway; it is named after a former head of the Oregon Highway Commission. The stretch east from Portland through the Columbia River Gorge is one of the most scenic sections of Interstate Highway in the entire system.
Interstate 84 largely follows U.S. 30 from Portland east to Rupert, Idaho. East of Rupert, U.S. 30 used to split into two branches: U.S. 30N and U.S. 30S. Today’s Interstate 84 replaces U.S. 30S from Rupert southeast to Echo Junction via Ogden, Utah.
Idaho and Utah proposed the renumbering of Interstate 80N as Interstate 86, but the Oregon State Transportation Commission turned down the request on May 17, 1977. Reasons cited included costs, which were estimated at $100,000 to replace all of the signs, and also that businesses that were advertised as being along Interstate 80 North would be upset by the need to readvertise their location.1
Idaho also proposed renumbering Interstate 15W as I-84 between Interstate 80N and Pocatello. That was conditionally approved by AASHTO as Interstate 86 on July 6, 1977, as Interstate 84 was instead applied to I-80N across Idaho, Oregon and Utah. A Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) announcement followed on August 13, 1977, indicating that approval was granted by AASHTO to renumber the freeway as I-84. UDOT director Blaine J. Kay said renumbering the route would eliminate confusion between the I-80 mainline in Utah and the northwesterly I-80N, following the transportation officials effort to eliminate duplication of numbers which are modified by letter additions.2 The Idaho Department of Transportation followed with an announcement regarding the AASHTO approval in November 1977. Officials indicated that conversion to I-84 was to be completed prior to July 1, 1980.3
The freeway was completed within Oregon in 1975, but it still had several Super Two sections, including the segments from Boardman (Exit 164) to Stanfield Junction (Exit 188) and the Pendleton Bypass. These segments were upgraded to full Interstate standards with four lanes by 1980.
In Oregon, Interstate 84 (80N) followed Columbia River Highway Number 2, which was also known as Oregon Highway 2. The Interstate was constructed in the Beaver State in stages commencing in 1963. One of the first segments of I-84 (80N) to be completed was the section between the city of Portland and The Dalles. This section was largely complete in 1963 but not finalized due to the narrow terrain until 1969. East of The Dalles, U.S. 30 was initially improved to expressway standards in the 1950s, but Interstate upgrades did not begin until after 1966 on this section. The freeway was considered fully constructed on July 3, 1980, with the completion of a segment of freeway near Baker City.4
Today, Interstate 84 follows the Banfield Expressway through Portland. This freeway was constructed prior to the implementation of Interstate standards, and it would have required a costly retrofit to modernize the highway. As a result, a new route was suggested for Interstate 84. The proposed reroute of I-84 through eastern Portland between Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 would have followed the unbuilt “Mount Hood Freeway” instead of the Banfield Expressway. In the mid-1960s, various alternate alignments were considered for the Mount Hood Freeway, which would have been about five miles in length.
The alignment selected for this freeway was known as “Division-Powell” corridor because it was to have followed U.S. 26 (Powell Boulevard). To facilitate connecting the Mount Hood Freeway with existing Interstate 84 (80N) east of I-205, a 2.5-mile overlap with Interstate 205 would be required. In 1968, the Oregon Department of Transportation tried to obtain approval for this proposed routing. As local communities became aware of the freeway’s proposed impact in established neighborhoods, a lawsuit was filed in 1972 in the U.S. District Court. The lawsuit demanded additional corridor studies and a full Environmental Impact Statement for this project.
As a result of this controversy coupled with the nationwide energy crisis at that time, the Portland City Council voted to withdraw its approval of the Mount Hood Freeway on July 25, 1974. By July 1975, the freeway was withdrawn by the department of transportation, and the Interstate funds were reallocated to other projects.4
Within Idaho, the final section of Interstate 84 built was the stretch through Caldwell. The route formerly took traffic through the middle of the city through what was regarded as an infamous traffic light. With construction of I-84 in the final stages through Caldwell in August 1983, the signal was removed from the corridor. Final paving of the main lanes for the last two mile stretch in Idaho commenced in September, with overall completion of the project in July 1984.5
The Utah stretch of Interstate 84 across Blue Creek Summit was the last to be built along the entire freeway. The 9.8-mile segment was dedicated on September 25, 1986.6
Button copy overheads posted ahead of the westbound split of I-80 and I-80N at Echo, Utah. Photo by Michael Summa, 1976.