STATUS UPDATE -
May 11, 2017
WSDOT plans to reopen the North Cascades Highway at 11 a.m., Tuesday, May 16
Washington State Department of Transportation – NEWS
Northwest Region – 15700 Dayton Avenue – Shoreline, WA 98133 – 206-440-4000
North Central Region – 1551 N. Wenatchee Ave. - Wenatchee, WA 98801-1156 – 509-667-3000
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 11, 2017
Contacts: Andrea E. Petrich, communications, 360-757-5963, Burlington
Jeff Adamson, communications, 509-667-2815, Wenatchee
SR 20/North Cascades Highway reopening planned for May 16 Warmer weather helped crews speed up the initial June estimate
DIABLO – It seemed like the winter weather might never end after record rain and snow pounded the state and delayed the reopening of State Route 20/North Cascades Highway. Finally, warmer temperatures, warm rain and sun arrived and should allow crews to reopen the road well ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.
With a lot of long days, and help from the weather, Washington State Department of Transportation crews turned eight weeks of work into 5-1/2. Crews are finishing final repairs and are planning to open the highway for the summer at 11 a.m., Tuesday, May 16.
“Not being able to start clearing until April 10 meant we couldn’t be open for the beginning of fishing season or Winthrop’s ‘49er Days Festival which we never like to happen,” said Don Becker, WSDOT’s maintenance supervisor in Twisp. “Crews always had a Memorial Day weekend opening as a goal, despite the estimates that told us June. Luckily, in the end, the weather was finally on our side.”
The warm weather helped melt some of the snow, but those conditions also increased the avalanche risk. Safety is WSDOT’s top priority and crews used spotters and safety ditches in the snow to keep themselves protected during clearing. Some chutes still have snow, but rain over the next few days is expected to cause them to slide and get cleaned up before the highway opens.
The clearing process
WSDOT crews started clearing back on Monday, April 10. Working from both sides, crews not only clear snow, they also repair pavement, signs and guardrails plus clear culverts and ditches of debris to ensure the highway is safe before it reopens
This year’s reopening is the third latest. You have to go back to June 14, 1974 to find the only time crews weren’t able to get this stretch open before the end of May.
Open for driving and recreation
Once the SR 20/North Cascade Highway gates open at milepost 134 and 171, the highway will remain open through the summer and into fall. Crews will close it when conditions in avalanche chutes become unsafe, usually a week or so before or after Thanksgiving.
When the highway is closed; skiers, backpackers, snowmobilers and other adventurers are welcome to use the closed stretch at their own risk. When crews are working on clearing, the area is closed Monday through Thursday.
Hyperlinks within the release:
Eight weeks of work into six: wsdot.wa.gov/Traffic/Passes/NorthCascades/updates2017.htm
Crews started clearing: wsdot.wa.gov/news/2017/03/23/sr-20-north-cascades-highway-clearing-scheduled-begin-april-10
Not only clear snow: flickr.com/photos/wsdot/albums/72157678384383793
Go back to 1974: wsdot.wa.gov/Traffic/Passes/NorthCascades/closurehistory.htm
SR 20/North Cascade Highway: wsdot.wa.gov/Traffic/Passes/NorthCascades/default.htm