In 1915, a groundbreaking (literally!) and iconic tunnel was constructed in the U.S. Piercing basalt cliffs, the tunnel’s five arched windows were cut from solid rock and offered sweeping views of the main attraction – the Columbia River Gorge. The original Mitchell Point Tunnel made news headlines across the country and opened the Gorge to the relatively new contraption called the automobile. Soon a steady stream of Model T’s motored through the hairpin turns of the highway and experienced the awe-inspiring scenery for themselves. But modern needs eventually took precedence. In 1953 the tunnel was deemed unfit for current transportation methods, closed, and filled. In 1966, to make way for the construction of highway I-84, the tunnel was destroyed.
Now, a century after the original Mitchell Point tunnel was built, the Historic Columbia River Highway is being restored. With nearly 73-miles of projects completed, a new Mitchell Point Tunnel remains as one of just 3 projects needed to fully connect the Historic Highway. Join guests, Kevin Price and Tova Peltz as they share the incredible history and feats of engineering behind reviving this highly-anticipated local icon.
Kevin Price moved to Oregon in 1976 to attend Eastern Oregon University. Kevin worked on a Hotshot fire crew, for four years, with the U.S. Forest Service and started a 34-year career with Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), retiring in 2018. During his tenure with OPRD, Kevin was directly associated with and managed Columbia Gorge state parks for 28 years, living in Corbett for 22 of those years. He’s led efforts to increase community engagement across the state and worked to increase education opportunities for students of color and underserved communities to experience the outdoors. Kevin currently serves as the board chair of SOLVE Oregon and continues to help expose students to the wonder of the Columbia Gorge and actively works with Martin Luther King Elementary School, the Oregon State Park Trust (Ticket2Ride program), and Friends’ Great Gorge Wahoo education program with St. Andrews Nativity School. Kevina was also a member of the California / Oregon National Guard (6 years) and currently works as a Verbal Judo instructor, de-escalation through the Verbal Judo Institute. Kevin enjoys golf, exercise, and the outdoors, but family is first and foremost.
Tova Peltz is a Program Manager for the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) – in her role as ODOT’s Region 1 Project Delivery Manager, she is responsible for developing, overseeing, and implementing ODOT’s capital program in Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, and Hood River Counties, at a total present value of about $800M. Over her 15 years at ODOT, she worked as a geotechnical engineer, engineering geologist, and construction project manager. As part of ODOT, Tova has been a part of restoring the Historic Columbia River Highway, including the iconic Mitchell Point Tunnel. With more than 20 years of experience in the public and private sectors, Tova is committed to growing the profession of engineering–chairing the annual Engineers Week High School Program in the greater Portland / Vancouver metro area and championing a variety of STEM outreach programs at ODOT. Tova received her BS from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Geology and her MS from the University of California at Berkeley in Geotechnical Engineer. Tova was named a Woman of Vision by the Daily Journal of Commerce in 2018 and ASCE Oregon Section’s Government Engineer of the Year in 2017.