Spring is here and with the change in seasons, comes work to start clearing State Route 20/North Cascades Highway.
Washington State Department of Transportation maintenance crews will begin clearing the scenic highway on Monday, March 26, from the Diablo side of
the gate. On Monday, April 9, crews from the eastern, Mazama, side will start working and the two will eventually meet in the middle. This process
usually takes four to six weeks but can last longer if spring snow falls or go faster if warm spring temperatures speed up snowmelt.
Once crews clear the snow, they’ll need to assess the road for any winter damage, replace guardrail and signs that were removed during the closure
and clear areas of rocks and other debris. Once that work is complete, crews will open the gates to vehicle traffic.
“Like most of our neighbors, we’re excited for the spring season and the fishing and other events that come with it, said WSDOT Twisp Maintenance Supervisor
Don Becker. “We want to get this stretch cleared as quickly as we safely can so everyone can start enjoying seasonal activities along the highway.”
During a March 20 assessment trip, WSDOT avalanche and maintenance staff found nine feet of snow near Rainy Pass and deep snow levels on Liberty Bell
avalanche chutes. Crews will watch the snow pack on some avalanche chutes that could slide as spring temperatures increase. In other areas, there
is less snowpack than we often find, which could help in the clearing process.
Access between the gates is allowed during the winter months but during the Monday through Thursday clearing process, the area is closed to everyone
but maintenance crews due to heavy equipment being used in the area.
Last year crews started clearing on Monday, April 10, and reopened the highway on Tuesday, May 16. The latest opening was in 1974 when the highway
reopened on June 14. During the winter of 1976 to 1977, there wasn’t enough snow to ever close the highway.
WSDOT Press Release 3.26.17