By Kari Bray Herald Writer
OSO — The stretch of Highway 530 that was buried in the Oso mudslide opened to two-way traffic Friday afternoon, days ahead of schedule.
The state Department of Transportation announced the road was open at 5 p.m. The highway in that stretch has a 25 mph speed limit and no vehicle size restrictions.
— WSDOT Traffic (@wsdot_traffic) June 21, 2014
The road was originally expected to reopen in both directions next week.
Matt Rugh, construction manager with Atkinson Construction, told a community meeting on Thursday night that crews had been working to clear the roadway in order to open it to two-way traffic. His company holds a $20.6 million contract with the state to rebuild the road.
The highway opened to alternating one-way traffic with a pilot car on May 31. Drivers had relied on the bumpy Seattle City Light utility access road for about a month before rubble was cleared from enough of Highway 530 to allow traffic.
Now that the road is reopened, work can begin on a new stretch of highway, which will be shifted to the south and raised up with fish culverts underneath.
The existing road will remain open while two new segments are constructed nearby. Parts of the highway are expected to shift up to 22 feet south but remain within the state Department of Transportation’s right-of-way, Rugh said.
Ruth Caesar of Oso said five homes, including hers, could be affected by the highway moving south and closer to their properties.
Crews plan to connect the new, raised roadway to the rest of the highway during two separate day-long closures this summer. The closures are scheduled for Wednesdays, and contractors intend to announce specific dates soon.
Work on the east end of the highway project is set to be finished by mid-August, and crews plan to finish the western portion in September. Rugh said he hopes the new highway will be open by October.
During Thursday’s meeting, people from Oso said they worry that keeping side roads open during construction could lure “looky-loos” interested in accessing the slide zone. Security patrols are planned to prevent access to the slide area, Rugh said.
Snohomish County Parks Director Tom Teigen said it’s common for people to visit the scene of a disaster. A future memorial could draw 250,000-plus visitors each year, he said.
Planning for such a memorial is in the early stages, he said. It’s likely to be a multi-year effort, funded through private donations and driven by the families impacted most by the slide.
“This is going to be your memorial site,” Teigen said. “It’s going to be brought together by people who have suffered an extreme personal loss of a loved ones.”
Several people at Thursday’s meeting urged that any discussions of a memorial be put on hold until the last of the 43 mudslide victims is recovered. Molly Kristine “Kris” Regelbrugge, 44, has not been found. Neighbors asked that any money being raised for a memorial instead be directed to search efforts.
“We’re willing to go to bat for that,” Teigen said.
Noah Haglund contributed to this report.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.