Settle in for even longer US 2, I-90 mountain pass commutes

GOLD BAR — More paving work is planned for U.S. 2 starting Monday, adding still more time to summer trips over the mountains.

“This work will cause some backups, so we’re asking drivers to be patient for the next few months,” said Kevin Waligorski, a project engineer with the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Crews will tune up three spots along a 17-mile stretch from Gold Bar to Skykomish.

This comes on top of similar pavement improvements that started in May on an eight-mile stretch of U.S. 2 from Sultan to Gold Bar.

That creates a 30-mile stretch, from west of Sultan to east of Skykomish, in which drivers can expect slowdowns at different points at different times of the day and night.

Work in both project areas is expected to last into the fall.

From Gold Bar to Skykomish, drivers should prepare for delays of at least 30 minutes. Work will occur during daytime and early evening hours. A pilot car will lead traffic through the open lane, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays.

From Sultan to Gold Bar, work is restricted to night-time hours with expected delays of 15 to 20 minutes. Most of the paving is complete on that stretch. Crews are working on rumble strips and permanent striping the next two weeks, before moving on to three bridge deck repairs. A pilot car leads traffic through the open lane, 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. weeknights.

The added delays come atop the usual summer delays that U.S. 2 drivers already know so well — especially when the weekend arrives.

“Highway 2 is always jammed, regardless of whether they’re working on the road or not,” said Denise Beaston, who works for the city of Gold Bar and grew up in Skykomish. “Every Sunday … traffic is at a standstill from Gold Bar all the way through to Sultan.”

Co-worker Lisa Stowe, the city’s clerk and treasurer, agreed Sundays are “crazy.”

“Locals know to just stay home on Sundays,” Stowe said.

The highway in most places is just two lanes, and is over capacity for even non-holiday weekends.

Cracks, ruts and potholes litter the major east-west corridor, creating a rough and bumpy drive for the 6,600 to 18,000 vehicles using the highway each day, depending on the area. Heavy trucks make up to 12.5 percent of traffic closer to Sultan.

The latest resurfacing project covers three sections. The two sections nearest Gold Bar will be chip sealed, while the Skykomish portion will be repaved. This stretch last saw a significant upgrade nearly 20 years ago.

The U.S. 2 facelift is one of many road construction projects adding wrinkles to summer travel plans over the mountains.

On I-90, lanes are reduced as crews repair concrete and bridge decks between North Bend and Ellensburg. On Sundays, backups over Snoqualmie Pass extend about 6 miles with an hour or more of added travel time.

This week, drivers on I-90 also should plan for hour-long delays, at 7 p.m. daily through Thursday, for rock blasting closures.

The North Cascades Highway (Highway 20) was cleared of snow and reopened May 16, but has been closed between Twisp and Okanogan east of the mountains due to washouts. The highway is expected to reopen this week.

Still, paving work between Sedro-Woolley and Concrete has brought lengthy delays of its own, with crews needing warm daylight hours to work. Drivers are advised to travel at night on Highway 20 or avoid the area.

Melissa Slager: streetsmarts@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3432.

Updated information

Find updated closure information for U.S. 2 and other highways in Snohomish County at www.wsdot.wa.gov/Northwest/Snohomish/Construction.

For I-90, go to www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/i90/whatshappening.

For Highway 20, track the eastern closure at www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/passes/northcascades and paving work at www.wsdot.wa.gov/Northwest/Baker/Construction.

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