The annual effort to reopen the North Cascades Highway will begin Monday (March 16) from the east side, and work from the west side will start on March 23, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT said Wednesday (March 11).
“Stabilization work on a rock slope west of Rainy Pass is expected to be finished by then, allowing the clearing to begin,” WSDOT said in a press release. “Those responsible for the annual reopening effort are optimistic that State Route 20 could be open in four weeks, perhaps even less depending on weather, equipment and personnel.”
On Tuesday (March 10), WSDOT avalanche-control specialists and maintenance technicians toured the North Cascades Highway from the Early Winters information center near Mazama to Washington and Rainy Passes in a snow cat, the release said. They measured snow depths at two dozen sites.
Snow at the summit of Washington Pass measured only 5 feet over the highway centerline, about half the depth of last year, according to the release. Snow on the highway below the Liberty Bell avalanche chutes averaged 35 feet deep a year ago but this year the depth at Liberty Bell avalanche chute 1 was 20 feet, LB2 was 15 feet, and LB3, 30 feet deep.
WSDOT closed the highway for the winter on Nov. 24, 2014. Last year the clearing work started March 31 and the highway opened on May 8.