By Ann McCreary
Highway crews expect to have the North Cascades Highway open by next week, or early the following week, making this year one of the earliest openings in a decade.
Barring equipment breakdowns or other unforeseen events, traffic should be able to travel across the scenic highway by Thursday, April 2, or Monday, April 6, said Don Becker, who oversees the highway opening for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).
Crews from the Methow Valley side had opened the highway to full width up to the final slide below Liberty Bell Mountain by Tuesday afternoon (March 24), Becker said.
Known as Liberty Bell No. 3, the 55-foot deep slide was being pared down by a Lloyd Logging caterpillar and Becker said he expected to be through the slide area Wednesday (March 25).
Once through that slide “we’re headed to the other side,” Becker said.
Crews working their way up the west side had made it to Easy Pass by Tuesday, only 11 miles away from the crews coming up the east side.
Low snow accumulation last winter makes this the earliest opening since 2005, when the pass opened on March 10. The pass closed again that year on March 26, and reopened April 4, according to WSDOT records.