Moment of silence to mark Highway 530 reopening

OSO — A one-lane stretch of Highway 530, which has been closed since the deadly March mudslide, is to reopen to traffic at noon Saturday with hopes that the vital link between Arlington and Darrington can be completely rebuilt by this fall.

On Friday, the state Department of Transportation awarded a $20.57 million contract to Guy F. Atkinson Construction to rebuild a portion of Highway 530 through the slide area.

When finished, the new stretch will be elevated to deal with an increased flood risk and topographic changes to the North Fork Stillaguamish River caused by the landslide, officials said.

Atkinson, a Colorado-based firm, worked on the widening of I-405 south of Bellevue. It was one of four bidders for the contract. Federal Highway Administration emergency-relief funds will cover the entire cost of the project, which state officials hope will be mostly done by early October

On Saturday, when the road reopens, it will be a single lane and a pilot car will lead vehicles in each direction, as is done now on the parallel Seattle City Light access road that has served as a temporary route.

No schedule will be set. Rather, flaggers will coordinate based on the back-ups. The speed limit will be 25 mph and there will be no restrictions for height and size of vehicles, officials said.

Three miles of the highway have been closed since the March 22 mudslide that killed 43 people. One person, Kris Regelbrugge, is still missing.

Saturday morning, before the road reopens, families, community members and first responders from Darrington, Arlington and Oso are to gather for a moment of silence at the memorial Sitka spruce tree in the debris field. The group then intends to walk part of the closed road together.

State transportation leaders thought it would be mid-June before a Ferndale contractor could clear away enough slide debris to enable safe travel by cars and trucks.

The massive slide buried roughly one mile of roadway under an estimated 90,000 cubic yards of debris. IMCO Construction received a $4.9 million contract to remove the material to allow for the partial reopening.

The firm finished the work sooner and at lower cost than expected. WSDOT spokesman Travis Phelps said the final tab for the work is around $3.5 million.

Federal emergency highway funds will also pay for the debris removal.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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