Crews work to open alternate route to Darrington

DARRINGTON — Road crews are working with heavy graders and snow blowers to reopen by week’s end the Mountain Loop Highway as an alternate route to mud choked Highway 530.

“We’re hoping to wrap up that work by Thursday afternoon,” state Department of Transportation spokesman Travis Phelps said.

The gravel and dirt road between Darrington and Granite Falls typically closes for winter and reopens in late spring.

With reduced speed limits, it won’t be a substitute for Highway 530, which for the foreseeable future will remain covered in thousands of cubic yards of debris from the Oso mudslide on Saturday.

For now, Darrington can only be reached via Highway 20 in Skagit County, which connects with Highway 530 north of Darrington.

State and county crews hope to make the Mountain Loop passable to most types of vehicles.

“It’s meant as a detour to get people from point A to point B in the interim as we work to get Highway 530 back on track,” Phelps said. “We’re going to make sure it’s travelable for most types of vehicles. We don’t want to open up something that’s going to get people stuck or mess up their car in any way.”

As for Highway 530, it’s too early to speculate about when it might reopen.

“The area is not safe for our crews,” Phelps said. “We need to make sure the hillside is stable. We need to make sure that Snohomish County and other rescue crews can do their work before we see what kind of shape the road is in under the debris.”

Once the area stabilizes, the state expects to hire private contractors to clean up the debris, he said.

County Council Chairman Dave Somers said he and his colleagues stand ready to expedite any repairs or recovery efforts, but they won’t know what’s needed for quite some time.

“We’re still in a situation where the slide is active,” Somers said. “I’d expect that for a few weeks or even months before it stabilizes, so I expect it’ll be quite some time before that road is opened.”

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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