By Ann McCreary
Work to reopen Highway 20 to traffic over Loup Loup Pass continues six days a week, with a target opening date in June.
Meanwhile, snow clearing crews are making headway on Highway 20 over the North Cascades, and it appears likely the road will open to traffic in time for Memorial Day, said Don Becker, maintenance supervisor for Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) in Twisp.
Crews working from the east and west sides were about 3 miles apart on Tuesday (May 9), Becker said.
On the west side, crews were near the summit of Rainy Pass, and crews from the east side had made it as far as the Blue Lake trailhead early this week, Becker said.
In light of Highway 20’s closure over Loup Loup Pass and recent flooding problems on Highway 153, Becker said he was hopeful that WSDOT would authorize crews to work additional hours this coming weekend, to expedite opening the highway over the North Cascades.
“I’m very optimistic that we’ll be open by Memorial Day weekend,” he said.
Becker said learned this week that the road has been damaged by flooding in a 4-mile stretch between Rainy Pass and Easy Pass, in an area that has flooded in the past. That area has lost some pavement and will need to be repaired before the highway can open, he said. On Friday and Saturday, the east access to the highway will be closed to recreationists, WSDOT said.
Road crews repairing Highway 20 over the Loup have made good progress at the major washout on the east side of Loup Loup Pass at milepost 221.65, said Dan Lewis, project engineer in WSDOT’s north central region.
A large slide undermined the roadbed at that location, about 7 miles east of the summit, during early April rainstorms.
“The majority of that has been repaired and filled,” Lewis said. “We are now able to drive some off-road vehicles across that location.”
The repairs include installation of culverts to divert future floods and debris flows from the roadway. The other big washout, located near milepost 212 on the west side of the Loup Loup summit, is more problematic, Lewis said.
“We are still excavating out unsuitable material that is completely saturated with water. It’s not stable, you can’t compact it,” Lewis said.
The “soupy, yucky material” has to be removed before the roadbed can be rebuilt and pavement put down, he said. He estimated that about 35,000 tons of wet soil have been hauled away so far, with more to go.
Trucks are hauling in riprap rock to rebuild the roadbed and create embankments to protect the road from future flooding, Lewis said. The repairs to the washout on the east side of the summit have allowed trucks to haul in rocks and fill material from a pit near Malott, he said.
Runoff continues to be a problem near milepost 212, he said. “Right now we have some water that’s gone subsurface – a creek running underground. We are trying to catch water on the uphill side to keep it out of the site.”
The road repair work is being done through a 30-day emergency contract funded by the Federal Highway Administration. That contract with KRCI Construction of Wenatchee ends May 18.
A second contract is being prepared to go to bid, with work beginning May 22, Lewis said. That contract will last two or three months.
“We will focus on getting the highway open.” he said.