By Ann McCreary
In a push to get state highways 153 and 20 open before a federal emergency contract ends, construction crews worked through the weekend to complete paving damaged sections to allow traffic through.
Highway 153 was finally opened to traffic on Monday (Oct. 13) after being closed for almost seven weeks after floods and mudslides washed away sections of the road south of Twisp. Crews were able to pave a section at Benson Creek that has been impassable since the flooding, and removed a detour that has diverted traffic to the Twisp-Carlton Road.
Highway 20, which was also extensively damaged between Twisp and Loup Loup Pass in the Aug. 21 rainstorm and the ensuing flash floods, has been open to traffic for several weeks with a pilot car guiding traffic through the construction zone. Paving was completed over the weekend to allow traffic control to be removed.
“The contractor worked really long days over the weekend,” said Kevin Waligorski, who is overseeing the repair project for Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).
The state received funding for road repairs through a 30-day emergency contract from the Federal Highway Administration. That contract, awarded to Rains Construction of Malott, ended Monday, and WSDOT will be required to seek bids to complete the remainder of the roadwork, Waligorski said.
“We have to stop work, repackage the remainder of the work, get three bids and start a new contract,” he said.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done of both [highways],” he said. “But at least we’ve got traffic moving.”
The road repairs are aimed at restoring the highways and protecting them from damage in future flash floods and debris flows, which are anticipated as a result of the Carlton Complex wildfire that destroyed vegetation and damaged soils.
Ongoing work on Highway 153 will focus on the section at Benson Creek, and includes installing guardrails, surfacing a retaining wall with concrete and doing more work on reinforcing hillsides and channels to contain future runoff.
An 8-foot-diameter pipe replaced a 3-foot-diameter culvert at Benson Creek that was washed out by floods and debris. The flash floods also eroded away the southbound lane. Water from the creek is being diverted around the new pipe until the retaining wall and other work is completed.
Two other damaged sections on Highway 153 — at Leecher and Canyon creeks — have been repaired. Repairs at Benson Creek were delayed when an adjacent landowner refused to allow construction crews to access his property because he disagreed with WSDOT plans to repair the road.
A revised plan for the road repairs was developed, allowing the work to move forward despite the impasse.
On Highway 20, “there is a lot of armoring left to do to fill in where the road washed out, and culverts to install,” Waligorski said. Deep crevasses created by flash floods need to be reinforced with rocks and boulders.
Transportation officials will try to fast-track the bidding process to get the road repairs underway again, hopefully by the last week of October, Waligorski said.