Friday, April 24, 2009

SR 20 Opens This Evening

From the Washington State Department of Transportation Website:

The SR 20 North Cascades Highway reopens to traffic at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 24, a full week earlier than anticipated. Washington State Department of Transportation maintenance crews began work four weeks ago clearing avalanche chutes and snow from the mountain highway that closed to traffic for the winter on Dec. 11.

“The crews are really pleased that the reopening effort took two weeks less than it did last year and that the highway will be open for the opening weekend of fishing season,” said Don Becker, WSDOT Twisp Maintenance Supervisor.

The 8 p.m. reopening gives the crews the time they need to "sweep" the entire highway for sand, rocks and debris from Silver Star to Diablo, and clean up any more snow sloughed from avalanche chutes.

"It provides the safety margin we need so the first drivers over the passes make their trip successfully," said Becker.

East and west side crews met at Washington Pass Wednesday. Today, crews are widening and cutting safety pull out areas.

“We expected the clearing to take about five weeks if weather and equipment cooperated. We had some setbacks from both, but the key to faster-than-expected reopening was having the two west side snow blowers this week. Coupled with the melt from Monday and Tuesday’s warm temperatures, both crews moved more snow than we ever imagined in a single day,” said Becker.

When the gates swing open tomorrow, drivers should find the road conditions bare and dry or bare and wet across the entire route. The weather forecast calls for temperatures in the mid 40s, clouds and a freezing level around 4,500 feet. There is a possibility of some rain forecast Saturday through Monday.

While the final clearing work is underway, an unusual activity is taking place in Spiral Gulch, east of Washington Pass. Beginning early Friday morning, a Discovery Channel crew is filming a re-creation a truck accident that originally took place on the Alcan Highway for an upcoming episode of “Ice Road Truckers”.

Over the last 10 years, the pass has reopened for traffic between March 10 and May 7. The latest opening was June 14, 1974. The reopening effort has taken from as little as two weeks to as many as eight weeks. The highway never closed during the drought winter of 1976-77. Updates and photos of the annual spring reopening are posted on the WSDOT SR 20 web page,

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