The Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) east side clearing crew reached the summit of Washington Pass during its fourth week of readying the North Cascades Scenic Highway for traffic, and is “heading into the home stretch,” WSDOT reported.
“Snow levels on the roadway are about 6 feet, just the right depth for the blower to make good time,” WSDOT said in a press release. “As the crew heads into Rainy Pass, there are about 14 miles and one more avalanche path near Whistler Mountain before they meet the west side clearing point at milepost 148.”
“Once the road is cleared of snow, crews will repair damage to the guardrail, signage, and pavement caused by snow slides over the winter,” WSDOT said. “Without the roadway fully cleared, it’s still too soon to tell when the route will reopen for the spring. We expect a few more weeks of work still, but when dealing with Mother Nature and the potential for spring snow and rain, there are still too many variables to say exactly when the road will open.”
WSDOT reminded motorists that even when the highway opens, most National Parks and U.S. Forest Service facilities are closed to the public until later in the spring. “There also may still be narrow roadway shoulders with snowpack, few pull-outs or turn-arounds, and limited services,” WSDOT said. “The passes have been known to get snow and freezing rain late into spring, so you’ll need to be prepared for potential winter driving conditions and confirm that your destination is open and available to the public.”
Clearing the highway began on March 27. Clearing the road for vehicles typically takes six to eight weeks to not only clear the road but also make necessary repairs and ensure that the avalanche chutes at Washington Pass are safe.
The highway was closed to traffic for the season on Nov. 8, 2022, between milepost 134 and 178 (Ross Dam Trailhead to Early Winters gate). In 2022, highway clearing began March 28 and the road opened on May 10.
The clearing crews will be working Monday through Thursday, and WSDOT asks that recreationists wait until the weekend to use the cleared portions of the highway.